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BHARATIYA' V 1 D A • B H A V A N ’ S 
HISTORY AND CULTURE OF THE INDIAN PEOPLE 
VOLUME I 


THE VEDIC AGE 




THE HISTOrV aAd CULTURE 
OF THE INDIAN PEOPLE 

THE VEDIC 
AGE 

GENERAL EDITOR 

R. C. MAJUMDAR 

M.A,, PH.D., F.A.S., F.B.B.R.A.S. 

Ex Vice-Chancellor and Professor of History 
Dacca University 

Hon, Head of the Department of History 
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 


ASSISTANT EDITORS 

A. D. PUSALKER 

M.A., 1X.B.,PH.D. 

Assistant Director and Head of the 
Department of Ancient Indian Culture 
Bhuratiyer Vidya Bhavan 

A. K. MAJUMpAR 

M.A., 

Joint Director, Bhoratlya ^itfya Bhavan 



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CONTRIBUTORS 

• • 

R. C. MAJUMDAR 

% • 

M.A., PH.D., F.R.A.S.B. 

Formerly Vice-Chancellor and Professor of History in the University of Dacca 

* • 

RAO BAHADUR K. N. DIKSHIT 

M.A.,^.R.A.S.B. 

Formerly Director-General of Archaeology, Govehtment of India 


D. N. WAX>IA 

M.A., B.SC., I .G.S., F.R.G.S., F.R.A.S.B., F.N.I. 
Special Adviser to the Government of India 


G. P. MAJUMDAR 
M.sc., PH.D. (Leeds) 

Professor of Botany in the Presidency College, Calcutta 


B. K. CHATTERJl 


M.sc. 


Lecturer in Zoology in the Rresidency College, Calci:tfa 


H. D. SANKALIA 

M.A., LL.B., PH.D. (London) * 

Professor of History in the Deccan College Post-Graduate and 
Research Institute, Poona 


S. K. CHATTERJl 

M.A., D.LITT. (London) F.R.A.S.B. 

Khaira Professor of Indian Linguistics and Phonetics 
in the University of Calcutta 

A. D.’PUSALKER 

M.A., LLB., PH.D. 

Assistant Director and Head of the Department of Sanskrit 
Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 

• • 

13. K. GHOSH 

D.PHiL. (Munich), d.litt. (Paris) 

Lecturer in Philology in the University of Calcutta 


V. M. APTE 

M.A., PH.D. (Cantab.) 

Professor of Sanskrit in theJCarnatpk College, Dharwar 


M. A. MEHENDALE 

* VA., PH.D. • 

Professor of Sanskrit in S, B. Garda College, Navasali, fombay 




FOREWORD 


By D«. k. M. MUNSHI 
•* 

• 

In the course of my studies I had long felt thfe inadequacy ofour so- 
called Indian histories. For many years, therefore, I was planning 
an elaborate history of India in order not only that India’s past 
might be described by her sons, but also that the world might catch 
a glimpse of her soul as Indians see it. ^e Bharatiya Vidya Bha- 
van, an educational society which I founded in 1938, took over the 
scheme. It was, however, realized only in 1944, when my generous 
friend Mr. G. D. Birla, one of India’s,foremost’industrialists, lent me 
his co-operation and the support of the SHri'Krishnarpan Charity 
Trust of which he is the Chairman. As a result, the Bharatiya. 
Itihasa Samiti, the Academy of Indian History, was formed with 
the specific object of preparing this series, now styled The History 
and Culture of the Indian People. , 

The Samiti was lucky in securing the services.of Dr. R. C. Ma- 
jumdar, formerly Vice-Chancellor of Dacca University and one of 
India’s leading historians, as full-time editor, and of Dr. A. D. Pusal- 
ker, a young and promising scholar. Assistant Director of the Bhara- 
tiya Vidya Bhavan, as assistant editor. A large number of Indian 
scholars of repute have lent their co-operation to the scheme. Pro- 
fessor H. G. Rawlinson has been good enough to undertake the task 
of revising the MS. Messrs. George Allen and Unwin Ltd. rendered 
my work easy by undertaking its first publication in 1951, despite 
difficult publishing conditions in England, and have now been good 
enough to remit the publication rights to the Bhavan. To all of 
them I owe a deep debt of gratitude which I hasten to acknowledge. 

The General Editor ki his introduction has given the point of 
view of the scientific historian, to which category the contributors 
belong. My own work for the past thirty-five years has lain in the 
humbler sphere of weaving historical romances and literary and cul- 
tural studies out of materials so heroically salvaged by Indian and 
European scholars. As a result I hqve.seen and felt the form, con- 
tinuity and meaning of In(^a’s past. History, as I see^it, is being 
consciously lived by Indians. Attempts to complete what has hap- 
pened in the past form no small part of our modern struggle; there 
is a conscious as well as an unconscious attAnpt to carry life to per- 
fection, to join the fragments of existence, and to discover the mean- 
ing of the visions which ‘they reveal. It is not enough, therefore, 
to conserve, record and understand what has happened :‘4t is neces- 
sary also to assess the nature and direction of the momentous forces 
working through the life of India in order to appreciate the fulfil- 
ment which they seek, r 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Some years ago, therefore,* J defined the scope of history as 
follows: “To be a history in the true sense of the word, the work 
must be the story of the people inhabiting a country. It must be a 
recdrd of their life from age to age presented through the life and 
achievements of men whose exploits become the beacon lights of 
tradition; through the characteristic reaction of the people to physi- 
cal and economic conditions; through political changes and vicissi- 
tudes which create the forces and conditions which operate upon life; 
through characteristic social institutions, beliefs and forms; through 
literary and artistic achievements; through the movements of 
thought whieh from time to time helped or hindered the growth of 
collective harmony; through those values which the people have 
accepted or reacted to and whivh created or shaped their collective 
will; through efforts of the people to will themselves into an organic 
unity. The central purpose of a history must, therefore, be to in- 
vestigate and unfold the values which age after age have inspired 
the inhabitants of a country to develop their collective will and to 
express it through the manifold activities of their life. Such a 
history of India \s still to be written.’’ 

I know the difficulties which .beset the path of any enterprise 
which seeks to write such a history. In the past Indians laid little 
store by history. Our available sources of information are inade- 
quate, and in so far as they are foreign, are almost invariably taint- 
ed with a bias towards India’s conquerors. Research is meagre and 
disconnected. 

Itihasa, or legends of the gods, and Purina, legends of origin, 
had different spheres in the ancient literary tradition of India. But 
later, both came to mean the same thing, traditional history. The 
Kali Yuga, the current Iron Age, was considered too degenerate a 
period to deserve recording. The past was only cherished as the 
pattern for the present and the future. Works by ancient Indian 
authors which throw light on history are few. Religious and lite- 
rary sources like the Purdnas and the Kdvyas have not yet fully 
yielded up their chronological or historical wealth. Epigraphic re- 
cords, though valuable, leaye many periods unrelated. • 

Foreign travellers from other countries of Asia and from 
Europe, like Megasthenes of Greece, faiuen Tsang of China, Al- 
Masudi of Arabia, Manucci of Venice, and Bernier from France, 
have left valuable glimpses of India, but they are the results of 
superficial observation, though their value in reconstructing the 
past is immense. Chroniclers in the courts of the Turk, Afghan or 
the Mughal rulers wrote “histories” which, in spite of the wealth 
of historical material, are partially legendary and partially lauda- 
tory. The attempts of British scholars, with the exception of Tod, 
wherever they have taken these “histories”, as reliable source-books, 

8 



FOREWORD 


have hindered rather than helped the»study of Indian history. Sii* H. 
M. Elliot, the foremost of such Scholars, for instance, has translated 
extracts from Persian and Arabic “hisfories” with a political objec- 
tive, viz. to make, to use .his own words, “the native subjects'of 
British India more sensible of the immense advantages accruing to 
them under the mildness and equity of the present rule .. . ■ ^ 'So 
high an authority as Dr. Maulan^Nadvi, in his Presidential Address 
at the “Early Medieval India” Section of the Seventh Session of the 
Indian History Congress, expressed the verdict of modern scholars, 
that both the selection and translation of, these extracts have not 
been honest. But unfortunately, Elliot’s volumes became the 
source-book for most of our modern histories of Medieval India. 
As a result, they do not present a trae picture of India’s past, nor 
do they explain how Indians resisted the Turk, Afghan and Mughal 
incursions, how they reacted to the vicissitudes through which in 
consequence they passed, and how a Renaissance sprang up out of 
the impact of Indian with Persian and Turkish cultures. 

The treatment of the British period in most of our histories is 
equally defective. It generally reads like an unofficial report of 
the British conquest and of the benefits derived by India from it. 
It does not give us the real India; nor does it present a picture of 
what we saw. felt and suffered, of how we reacted to foreign influ- 
ences, or of the values and organizations we created out of the im- 
pact with the West. 

The history of India, as dealt with in most of the works of this 
kind, naturally, therefore, lacks historical perspective. Unfortu- 
nately for us, during the last two hundred years we had not only to 
study such histories but unconsciously to mould our whole outlook 
on life upon them. Few people realize that the teaching of such 
histories in our schools an^d universities has substantially added to 
the difficulties which India has'had to face during the last hundred 
years, and never more than during recent years. 

Generation after generation, during their school or college 
career, were told about the successive foreign invasions of the 
couptry, but little about how we resisted them and less about our 
Victories. They were taught to decry the Hindu social system; but 
they were not told how this system came into existence as ”k synthesis 
of political, social, economic and cultural forces; how it developed in 
the people the tenacity to survive catastrophit changes for millennia; 
how it protected life and culture in times of difficulty by its conser- 
vative strength and in favourable times developed an elasticity which 
made ordered progress possible; and how its vitality enabled the 
national culture to adjust its central idefhs to new conditions. 

Readers were regaled with Alexander’s short-livad and unffuc- 
tuous invasion of India; they, were left in ignorance of the magni- 

9 



THE VEDIC AGE 


ficTeiit empire and still more 0 q»during culture which the Gangetic 
Valley had built up at the time. Lurid details of intrigues in the 
palaces of the Sultans of Delhi — often a camp of bloodthirsty inva- 
ders — are given, but little light is thrown on the exploits of the race 
of heroes and heroines 'who for centuries resisted the Central Asiatic 
barbarians when they flung themselves on this land in successive 
waves. Gruesome stories of Muslipi atrocities are narrated, but the 
harmony which was evolved in social and economic life between the 
two communities remains unnoticed. The Mutiny of 1857 — the Bri- 
tish name for the Great Ijfational Revolt — gave the readers a glimpse 
of how the* brave foreigner crushed India; it is only outside the 
so-called historical studies that the reader found how at the time 

r 

patriotic men of all commuifiities in most parts of India rallied 
round the last Muglhal Emperor of Delhi, the national symbol, to 
drive out the hated foreigner. 

The multiplicity of our languages and communities is widely 
advertised, but little emphasis is laid on certain facts which make 
India what she is. Throughout the last two millennia, there was 
linguistic unity * Some sort of a lingua franca was used by a very 
large part of the country; and Sanskrit, for a thousand years the 
language of royal courts and at all times the language of culture, 
was predominant, influencing life, language, and literature in most 
provinces. For ovei* three thousand years, social and family life 
had been moulded or influenced by the Dharma-Sdstra texts, con- 
taining a comprehensive code of personal law, which, though adapt- 
ed from time to time to suit every age and province, provided a 
continuous unifying social force. Aryan, or rather Hindu culture 
(for there was considerable Dravidian influence) drew its inspira- 
tion in every successive generation from Sanskrit works on religion, 
philosophy, ritual, law and science, and particularly the two epics, 
the Mahdbhdrata and Rdmdyana, ^nd the Bhdgavata, underwent 
recensions from time to time, and became the one irresistible 
creative force which has shaped the collective spirit of the people. 
Age after age the best of Indians, from the mythical Vasishfha to 
the modern Gandhiji, found self-fulfilment in living up to an ideal 
of conduct in accordance with a code of life which may be triced 
back as far as the Upanishads. 

The British conquest and the benefits of British rule are gene- 
rally described in histories in ‘‘Rudyard Kipling” style. The im-^ 
pact of western culture, however, came in the wake of the British 
corfhection. In our histories we completely lose sight of how this 
impact awoke the sleeping giant to a consciousness of its ancient 
strength and modern possibilities; . how under the influence of 
European ideas and British democratic * traditions, the Collective 
Spirit, withodt losing its grip over the essentials of its culture, 
adjusted itself to modem conditions, creating new intellectual 

10 



FOREWORD 

and artistic movements and making the democratic traditions of 
Great Britain its own; how, under the European concept of nationa- 
lism Arya-Dharma (Indian Culture) slowly broadened out into a 
powerful neornationalism seekihg a secular democratic state, Indian 
in conception and technique. 

The older school of histowans believed that imperialism of 'the 
militaristic political type was unfamiliar to this “mystic land.” But 
the Aryan conquest of India, which forms the subject matter of Vol. 
I of this series, was as much militaristic-political as religious and 
cultxural. If instead of treating by dynasties, stress is laid on the 
rise and fall of Imperial power, Magadhan sovereignty and Sata- 
vahana imperialism from 600 B.C. to A.D. 32.0 (Vol. II) were, for 
the age, outstanding phenomena. If the territory involved, the 
population affected, and the heroism and power of Organization 
displayed and the cultural activities pursued are taken into account, 
the Classical Age, A.D. 320-750 (Vol. Ill), which saw the empire of 
the Guptas and of 6ri Harsha, was one of the culminating points in 
history. The age between A.D. 750-1000 (Vol. IV) saw the empire 
of the Pratiharas, the Rashfrakutas and the Palas.’ Between A.D. 
1000 and 1300 (Vol. V), the Para’maras and the Cholas fo.unded em- 
pires; different states struggled for imperial power; the barbarian in- 
roads from Central Asia rendered all indigenous efforts at consoli- 
dation unfruitful. 

The rise of the Turkish Power under Ala-ud-din Khilji found- 
ed a new and powerful imperialism, the Sultanate of Delhi, which 
lasted from 1300 to 1526 (Vol. VI). From A.D. 1526-1707 the 
Mughals held sway at Delhi (Vol. VII) when the world witnessed 
one. of the most magnificent empires of all time. The Maratha 
supremacy, which lasted from 1707-1818 (Vol. VIII), brought about 
the downfall of the Mughal Empire, but before it could consolidate 
its power, the British stepped in. British domination from 1818-1947 
fVols. IX and X) was a period of complete subjection; but it saw the 
national resurgence which, on August 15, 1947, under Mahatma 
Gandhi, secured freedom by non-violent means. It also saw the 
birth of a Renaissance which gave fresh vitality to all that India 
•stood for in history. These militaristic-political movements in India 
were in no wise less vigoroul or worldly than similar movements in 
other parts of the world in the correspbnding age. To say that the 
country was lost in contemplation all the time would be to ignore 
the salient facts of history. ^ 

The r61e of alien invasions in the history of India, hitherto exag- 
gerated, deserves to be reduced to its appropriate proportions. India, 
like most other countries,, has had its foreign incursions, which, like 
Mahmud of Ghazni’s raids between A.D. 999 and 1,024, glittering 
episodes from the raiders’ point of view, were at best only shaping 



THE VEDIC AGE 


influences. Of foreign conquests, which changed the course of 
history and the texture of life and 'culture, there were only three, 
First, the Aryan conquests in *pre-historic times, which wove the 
essential pattern of national life and culture. Second, the Turko- 
Afghan conquests, ,which introduced Islamic influence into India 
and added new' colours to the pattern of life. These conquests, 
however, soon lost their character of foreign military occupation, 
for the conquerors threw in their lot with the country and produc- 
ed some of its best rulers and its most powerful political organiza- 
tions. This so-called Muslim period, scientifically the Turko-Mu- 
ghal period,, dominated the country for about four centuries rough- 
ly from A.D. 1300 to 1700. Third, the British occupation from 
1818-1947, perhaps tlie only period of foreign rule in the sense that 
the country was governed essentially by foreigners from a foreign 
country and in foreign interests. It brought in its wake contact 
with Europe, a new awakening and a new cultural synthesis. 

But during all this period the vitality of the race and culture, 
altered from time to time in direction and objective, expressed itself 
with unabated ^dgour in resistance movements, military, political, 
and cultural. The History of India is not the story of how she un- 
derwent foreign invasions, but how she resisted them and eventual- 
ly triumphed over them. Traditions of modern historical research 
founded by British scholars of repute were unfortunately coloured 
by their attitude towards ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, which 
have a dead past and are, in a sense, museum exhibits. A post- 
mortem examination of India’s past would be scientifically inaccu- 
rate; for every period of Indian History is no more than an expre.s- 
sion in a limited period of all the life forces and dominant ideas 
created and preserved by the national culture, which are rushing 
forward at every' moment through time. The modern historian of 
India must approach her as a living entit;^ with a central continuous 
urge, of which the apparent life is a mere expression. Without 
such an outlook it is impossible to understand India, which, though 
a part of it has seceded in search of an independent existence, 
stands today three hundred and fifty million strong, with a new 
apparatus of state, determined not to be untrue to its ancient self,, 
and yet to be equal to the highest demands of modern life. 


12 



CONTEMTS 


Page 


Foreword hy K. M- Munshi 7 

Preface by R. C. Ma'jumdar 23 

Abbreviations ' 31 

BOOK I. INTRODUCTION 

I . Indian History, its nature, scopes and method 37 

by R. C. Majumdar, m.a., ph.d., f.r.a.s.b. 

Formerly Vice-Chancellor and Professor of History 
in the University of Dacca ♦ 

II. Sources of Indian History 47 

by R. C. Majumdar, 


1. Ancient Period- A — Literary Sources. B — 
Archaeology (I. Inscriptions. II. Numismatics- 

Ill. Monuments). C — ^Foreign Accounts (Greek 
Writers. Chinese Travellers. Arab Writers) 

2. Mediaeval Period 
3 Modern Period 

III. Archaeological Explorations and excavations 66 

by the late Rao Bahadur K. N. Dikshit, m.a., f.r.a.s.b. 

Formerly Director General of Archaeology, Govern- 
ment of India. 

Decipherment of the Brahmi Script. Begin- 
nings of Archaeological Survey. Establishment of 
Archaeological Department. Regular and Syste- 
matic Excavations (Mohenjo-daro, Punjab and 
N.W.F.P., Kashmir, United Provinces, Bengal) 
Prehistoric remains in Gujarat (Bombay, Mysore, 
Madras). Explorations in Greater India 

IV . The Geological Background of Indian History 80 

by D. N. Wadia, m.a., b.sc., f.g.s., f. r.g.s., f.r.a.s.b., t.N.i. 
Special Adviser to the Government of India 

1 . The Setting of the Stage for Early Man in India 

2. The Indo-Gangetic Alluvium of the Plains of 
North India , 

3. Human cave-dwellers of India: Their animal 
contemporaries 

4 . Laterite cap of the Peninsula and Soil Deposits 

5. Changes in the River Systems of North India 
durii^ the human epoch 

6. The Great Prehistoric River of Northern India 

7. The Deserts of Western India: The Rann of 
Cutch 

8. The meteorological influence of the Himalaya 
Mountains 

9. Earthquakes atid Volcanoes 



THE VEDIC AGE 


w 

10. Late earth-mo vements*^ and local Alterations of 
level ' ' 

V. .The Geographical Background of Indian History 91 

by R. C- Maphmdar 

1 . Physical Features (I. The great mountain wall. 

II. The Plain of Hindustan. III. The Plateau: 

A — The Deccan Plateau, B — The Coastal 
Region, C — The Central Indian Plateau). 

2. Influence of Geography upon History- Division 
, into several political and cultural units. Ind^a, 

a distinct geographical unit. Effect of physical 
features. Indian Colonization. Effect of climate 

VI. Flora and Fauna • 108 

Part I. The Flora 

by G- P. Majumdar, m.sc., ph.d. (leeds) 

Professor of Botany in the Presidency College, Cal- 
cutta . 

1. Forest Vegetation; its types 

2 . Freshwater Vegetation 
3 . Cultivated Vegetation 

Part II. The Fauna 
by B- K. Chatter ji, m.sc. 

Lecturer in Zoology in the Presidency College, Cal- 
cutta 

1 . The Vertebrates. Mammals. Birds. Reptiles. 
Batrachians. Fishes- Lower Chordates 

2. The Invertebrates. Molluscs. Arthropods. Echi- 
noderms 

BOOK ll. THE PREHISTORIC AGE 

VII. Palaeolithic, Neolithic And Copper Ages 125 

by H. D. Sankalia, m.a., ll.b., ph.d, (lonoon) 

Professor of History in the Deccan College Post- 
Graduate and Research Institute, Poona. 

1 . Palaeolithic Age (I. First Inter-Glacial Age- II. 

Second Inter-GItKjial Age and Early Soan In- 
dustry. m. Third Ice Age and Late Soan In- 
dustry. IV. Third Inter-Glacial Age; Chauntra 
Indus^. V- Fourth Ice Age Tools). 

2. Mesolithic Age. 

3. Neolithic Age. 

4. Copper and Bronze Age. 

5 . Iron Age 

VIII . Race-Move m ents a nd I^ehist^ric Culture 143 

by S- K. Chatter ji, m.a,, d.litt. (London), f.r.a.s.b. 

Khaifa Professor of Indian Linguistics and Phone- 
tics in the University of Calcutta.- 

14 



CONTENTS 


Six main races with snb-types. Evolution of Com- 
mon Indian Culture. Contfibution of (a) the Neg- 
roid or Negrito, (b) the Proto-Australoids, (c) Dra- 
vidian-speakers- "Synthesis of the Aryan and noft- 
Aryan Culture. ’ , • 


< 

2 . 


IX. The Indus Valley Civilization 

by A. D. Pusalker, m.a.,*ll.b., ph.d. 

Assistant Director and Head of the Department of 
Sariakrit, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan 

The Town (Buildings. DraiAagtf. The Qreat 
Bath) . 

Social and Economic Life (Food. Animals- 
Dress. Ornaments. Toiltet Article^. Household 
Utensils. Games. Conveyance. Weight ’and 
Linear Measures. Medicine- Weapons, Tools, 
and Implements. Trade and Commerce. Classes 
of People). 

Arts, Crafts, and Industries (Figures. Seal- 
engravings. Statues. Spinning and Weaving. 
I^ottery. Seals. Precious Stones and* Metals. 
/Shell, Ivory, and Faience). 

Religion (Mother Goddess. $iva. Animal Wor- 
ghip . Worsfiip of TVee, Fire, and Water) 

5. Funerary Customs " 

6 . The Indus Script 

7 . The Antiquity of the Culture 
8 V^Cuthors of the Indus Civilization 
9 . Extent, Connections, and Survivals of the Indus 

Civilization 


3. 


4 


Page 

m 


172 


BOOK III. THE ARYANS IN INDIA 

X. The Aryan Problem 205 

by B. K. Ghosh, r».PHiL., (Munich), d.utt. (Paris) 

Lecturer in Philology in the University of Calcutta 

Original home of the Indo-Europeans. Earliest trace 
of the Indo-Iranians. Lithuanian, the most archaic 
of Indo-European Languages. No case for original 
home in Europe. Scandinavia not the original 
home. Tripoli e culture. Brandenstein’s theory of 
the Original Homes Relation between Indo-Euro- 
pean and non-Indo-European languages 
Appendix — India, the original home of the Aryans 
by S. Srikanta Sastri, Professor Maharaja’s College, 
Mysore 

XI . Indo-Iranian Relsrtions 222 

by B. K. Ghosh 

Cleavage betweeh the Aryans of India and Iran. 
Antagonism between the Worshippers of .Daiva- 
gods and Asura-gods.^ Reforms of Zarathustra. Pre- 

15 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Zarathustra Ir^ian Cultui'e essentially the same as 
Vedic 

XII, Vedic Literature — Genera! View 
hy B. K. JGhosh 

1. The Samhitas (I. Iligveda. II. Samaveda. Ill- 

Yajurveda. IV. A}:harvaveda). 

2. The Brahmanas 

3. The Srauta-sutras 

XIII. Aryan Settlempnts in India 
by A. D. Pusalker 

1 . Geographical Names in the Rigveda 

2. The Tribes in the ?,igveda 

3. The Beriod of the Later Samhitas, Brahmanas, 
Upanishads and Sutras (I. Geographical 
Names. II- The Tribes) 

BOOK IV. fflSTORICAL TRADITIONS 

XIV. Traditional History from the Earliest Time to the 
Acceslion of Paril^hit 

hy A. D. Pusalker 

1. Sources of Information 

2 . Chronological Scheme of Traditional History 
according to the Puranas 

3. Pre-Flood Traditions and Dawn of History 

4. Flood and Manu Vaivasvata c. 3100 B.C. 

5. Yayati Period (c. 3000-2750 B.C.) (I- The 
Lunar Dynasty. II. The Solar Dynasty- III. Brah- 
mana Families) 

6. Mandhatri Period (c. 2750-2550 B.C.) (I- The 
Solar Dynasty. II. The Lunar Dynasty) 

7. Paraiurama Period (c. 2550-2350 B.C-) (I. The 
Bhrigus. II- The HaUiayas. III. Other Lunar 
Dynasties. IV. The Solar Dynasty. V- Brahmana 
Families) 

8. Ramachandra Period (c. 2350-1950 B-C.) (I. The 
Solar Dynasty. II. The Lunar Dynasty. III. 
Brahmapa Families) 

9. Krishipa Period’ (c. 1950-1400 B.C.) (I. The 
Panchalas. II. The Pauravas- III- The Yadavas. 
IV. The Eastern Anavas, V. The Solar Dynasty) 

10. The Bharata War (c. 1400 B.C.) (I. The Kaura- 
vas and Paij^avas. II. The Bharata War) 

11 . Comparative Value of the Vedas and the PurS- 
jtjas as Sources of Traditiopal History 

12. The Expansion of the Aryans and Aryan Cul- 
ture 

Appendix I ; ' Development of different dy- 
nasties 

Appendix II : Genealogical Tables 
16 



CONTENTS 


XV . Traditional History from* the Accession of Parikshit 

to the end of the Barhadratha Dynasty 

by A, D. Pusalker 

1. The Pauravas 

2 . The Kosalas 

3 . Magadha 

4 . Other Kingdoms 

BOOK V- THE AGE OF THE RIK-SAMHITA 
XVI. Language and Literature 337 

by B, K, Ghosh 

1 . Language (Not homogeneous. Artificial. Re- 

handling of original texts. The Verbal system- 
Tenth Mani^ala distinctly later) ' ' 

2. Literature (Yaska^s classification of Vedic 
hymns not quite satisfactory. Hynrm to Ushas. 

Spirit of the hymns. Hymn to Parjanya. Mar- 
tial hymns- Dialogue-hymns. Frog-hymn- 
Danastuti. Apri-hymns. Funeral-hymns. Philo- 
sophical hymns) 

#^XVII. Political and Legal Institutions 355 

by V. M. Apte, m.a., ph.d. (cantab) 

Professor of Sanskrit in the Karnatak College, 
Dharwar 

1 . Political Institutions (Monarchy. Sabhd and 
Samiti* Purohita) 

2. Administrative Organization (Grama) 

3. Law and Legal Institutions (Individual owner- 
ship of Land) 


Page 

323 


X vin . 




Religion and Philosophy 

by V. M. Apte 

1 . Mythology (I. Origin. II. The Nature and Classi- 
fication of Gods. III. The Celestial Gods. IV. The 
Atmospheric Gods. V- The Terrestrial Gods) 

2 . Sacrifice 

3 . Philosophy 

4. Ethical and Spiritual Thought 

Social and Economic Conditions 

by V. M. Apte '> 

1 . Social Condition (I. Family Life. II. The Caste 
System. III. Marriage and the Position of 
Women. IV. Education. V. Amusements and 
Entertainments. VI. Food and Drink. VII. Dress 
and Decoration. VIII. Knowledge of Medicine 
and Sanitation) 

2. Economic Condition (I. Agriculture and Cattle. 
IT. Trade and Commerce. III. Occupations and 
Industries. IV. House-building and Means of 
Transport, etc,) 


363 


387 


V.A — H 


17 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Page 

BOOK VI. THE AGE OF THE LATER SAKIHITAS 

XX. Language and Literature 407 

by B. K. Ghosh {Section 4 by V- M. Apte) 

1 . The ^Language of the Saihhitas (I. Samaveda- 
II. Yajurveda. III. Ath^rvaveda) 

2. The Samhita Literature (I- Atharvaveda, Arro- 
gance of the Brahmanas, Coronation hymn, 
Bhumi-sukta, the National Anthem of Vedic 
India, Magic and Charms, Hymn to Varuna 
II. Yajuryeda) 

3 . The Brahmanas (I. Language. II. Literature) 

4. The Aranyakas 

XXI . Political and Legal Institutions 429 

by V. M. Apte 

1. Political Theory (Origin of Kingship. Growth 
of royal power- Sabha and Samiti) 

2. Administrative Organization (Royal Officials. 
Taxation) 

3. Law and Legal Institutions (Evidence. Crimi- 
nal law. Civil law. Civil procedure Owner- 
ship of Land) 

XXII. Religion and Philosophy 442 

by V. M. Apte 

1 . Atharvaveda (Magic Formulae. Philosophical 
hymns) 

2. The Skmaveda and the Yajurveda Saihhitas 
and the Br&hmapas (Grand Sacrifices- Groups 
of priests. The Gods. Ethical Ideas- The con- 
ception of Heaven and Hell. The Circuit of 
Birth and Death) 

3 . The Aranyakas 

XXIII . Social and Economic Conditions 453 

by V. M. Apte 

1 . Social Condition (I. Family Life. II. The Caste 
System- III. Marriage and the Position of 
Women. IV. Education. V. Amusements and 
Entertainments. VI. Food and Drink. VII. 

Dress and Decoration. VIII. Knowledge of 
Medicine) ' 

2. Economic Condition (I. Agriculture and Cattle. 

II. Trade and Commerce. III. Occupations and 
Industries. IV. House-Building and Means of 
Transport) 

BOOK VII. THE AGE OF THE UPAOTSHADS AND SCTRAS 

XXIV. Language and Literature , 471 

by M- A. Mehendale m.a., ph.u.' 

Professor of Sanskrit in S. B. Garda College, Nava- 
sari, Bombay 

18 



CONTENTS 


•• Page 

1. The Upanishads (Chrpi\ological classification. 

Composed mainly by the Kshatriyas. Prin- 
cipal teachings, llie doctrines of Atman and 
Brahman. Transmigration) •• , 

2. The Sutras (I. Siksha. II- Kalpa. Srauta-sutra. * 
Grihya-sutra. Dh'arma-sutra. Sulva-sutra- Date 
of the Kalpa-sutra. texts. III. Vyakarana- 
IV. Nirukta. V- Chhandas. VI. Jyotisha) 

3. Language (I- The Upanishads. II. The Sutras) 

XXV . Political and Legal Institutions • 487 

by V. M. Apte 

1 . Political Theory (Principle of Dharma. Life 
and duty of king. Positibn of tlie^r^ma^a in 
the State. Parishad) 

2. Administrative Organization (Taxation. Vil- 
lage) 

3. Law and Legal Institutions (Beginnings of 
Civil and Criminal Law. Judicial tribunals. 
Punishments. Rules of Inheritance. Title to 
Property. Rate of Interest) 

XXVI. Religion and Philosophy • 498 

by V. M. Apte 

1. The Upanishads (Protest against ritual. 
Identity of Brahman and Atman. Praija. The 
transmigration of the soul. Ethical concepts. 
Fundamental doctrines) 

2. The Sutras (The Srauta sacrifices- The Grihya 
ritual. Meaning and nature of sacrifice. Diffe- 
rent classes of priests. Magic and rituals. Ethi- 
cal concepts) 

XXVII. Social and Economic Conditions 512 

by V. M. Apte • 

1 . Social Condition (l. Family Life. IL The Caste 
System- III. Marriage and the Position of 
Women. IV. Education. V. Manners and Morals, 

Habits and Customs. VI. Amusements and 
Entertainments. VII. Food and Drink. VIII. 

Dress and Decoration. IX. Health and Hygiene) 

2. Economic Condition (I. Agriculture and 
Cattle. II. Trade and Commerce, Arts and In- 
dustries. III. House-building and Means of 
Transport) 


Bibliographies 

533 

Appendix 

549 

Index 

554 


19 




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS 

♦ 

between pages 176 and 177 

PLATE 

1. Corbelled Drain, Mohenjo-daro 

II. Great Bath, Mohenjo-daro 

III . Jewellery — Necklaces, Mohenjo-daro 

IV. Personal Ornaments, Mohenjo-cJaro 

V. Arts and Crafts, Mohenjo-daro 

VI. Statuary, Harappa and Mohenjo-daro 

VII. Seals, Mohenjo-daro 

VIII. (I) Fractional Burial, Mohenjo-daro 
(2) Model Animal, Mohenjo-daro 


MAPS AND PLANS 

1 . Map ol India, showing types of Forest Vegetation 

and Botanical Regions of India page 552 

2. Preliistoric and Vedic India page 553 


21 




PREFACE 

by R. C. Majumdsir', M.A., PH.D., F.R.A.S.B. 

The genesis of this work and its scope and* nature have*beeij 
explained in the Foreword. But it is necessary to add a few words 
about its general planning. After having decided that the work 
would consist of ten volumes of approximately five hundred pages 
each, it was not an easy task to distribute the subject-matter among 
them on a basis which would be both equitable and rational- It 
has been hitherto customary to divide Indian history into the Hindu, 
Muslim and British periods, and assign equal space to each. The 
Cambridge History of India has set it*s seal of approval .upon this 
plan, which has also been adopted by the Indian History Congress 
for its projected history of India. But it can hardly be regarded 
as equitable. Looking at the matter from a broad standpoint, it 
would be difficult to maintain that the 4,000 years of pre-Muslim 
India, of the history and culture of which we posses a definite know- 
ledge, though in brief outline, should rank in importance as equal 
with that of the Muslim period of»about 400 or 500 years, or the 
British period of less than 200 years. It is true that we possess 
more historical material for the later ages, but if we are to judge 
by that standard alone, the British period should have twice or thrice 
the number of volumes assigned to the Muslim period. After all, 
the contribution of different ages to the evolution of national history 
and culture should be the main criterion of their relative importance, 
though the space devoted to each should also be largely determined 
by the amount of historical material available- There is, no doubt, 
a dearth of material for the political history of ancient India, but this 
is to a large extent made qp for by the corresponding abundance 
for the cultural side. Taking Everything into consideration we 
have modified the hitherto accepted plan, and have allotted nearly 
half of the entire work to the Hindu period. 

Some difference will also be noticed in our conception of the 
beginning and end of the Muslim period.. It is usual to regard the 
accession of Qutb-ud-din to the throne 'of Delhi in A.D- 1206 as the 
commencement of this period, and some historians even include 
within it the period of Ghaznivite supremacy in the Punjab two 
centuries earlier. It should be remembered, however, that the 
major part of India remained under Hindu rule almost throughout 
the thirteenth century A.D? and the same was also largely true of 
the century following the death of Aurangzeb. To include these 
two centuries under the Muslim' period tan therefore be hardly re- 
garded as historically accurate. 

These difficulties can best be overcome by avoiding altogether 

23 



THE VEDIC AGE 


the terms Hindu and Muslim. As a matter of fact, one may rightly 
question the reasonableness oj[ designating historical periods by tjie 
religious denomination of the ruling dynasties* In that case, in 
order to be consistent, we should style the third period of Indian his- 
tory Christian rather than British. This is sufficient to demonstrate 
the absurdity of the present system of nomenclature, deep-rooted 
though it has become. We have. accordingly divided Indian history 
into three chronological periods — ^Ancient, Mediaeval, and Modern — 
which are generally adopted for the history of Europe. 

In the case of Europe, the overthrow of the Western Roman 
Empire by the irruption of barbarian hordes, which brought about 
the disappearance of classical learning, is taken to be the dividing 
line between Ancient and Mediaeval periods. In the case of India, 
there is no general agreement on this subject, but the onslaught of 
Islam, accompanied by a marked decadence of culture and the dis- 
appearance of the creative spirit in art and literature, seems to mark 
A.D. 1000 as the beginning of the Mediaeval Age. 

The decline of the Mughal Empire and the growing power of the 
European nations in Indian politics may be reasonably regarded as 
marking the end of one and the beginning of another epoch in 
Indian history, and hence the eighteenth century has been taken 
as the commencement of the Modern Period. In Europe the Modern 
Period dates from the overthrow of the Eastern Roman Empire 
and the subversion of the age of faith and tradition by the awaken- 
ing of humanism through the agency of the revival of classical 
learning. On this analogy one might be inclined to include the 
eighteenth century within the Mediaeval rather than the Modern 
period. But the political considerations referred to above, especially 
the establishment of the British power on a solid basis, are strong 
arguments in favour of dating the beginning of the Modern Period 
from the eighteenth century rather than the nineteenth. 

For reasons given above, neither the thirteenth nor the eigh- 
teenth century A.D* has been included within what is usually des- 
cribed as the Muslim Period. The first is taken as a part of a long 
period of protracted struggle for political supremacy, both between 
the Indians and foreign invaders and among the Indians themselves, 
which ultimately ended in the next century in favour of the Khiljis. 
So far as the eighteenth century is concerned there is no doubt that 
the Marathas were the leading political power in India. These two 
vclumes have been styled accordingly. 

So far by way of explanation of the general division into three 
broad periods — Ancient, Mediaeval, and Modern — and the titles 
given to Volumes V and VlII, which niark a great departure from 
current practice* It must be remembered, however, that while 
specific dates had to be assigned to each volume for the sake of pre- 

24 



PREFACE 


cision and accuracy, they should no^ be strictly equated with fhe 
title given to it. The period of Maratha supremacy, for example, 
cannot be said to cover exactly the "years A.D. 1707 to 1818, but 
nevertheless these have been 4aken to be the limiting dates .of 
Volume VIII, which bears that title, because they mark definite 
events of great importance connected with the central theme, viz. 
the death of Aurangzeb which facilitated the growth of Maratha 
power, and the Third Maratha Wa!* which put an end to the Maratha 
supremacy. 

The same is more or less true of the^ other volumes and the 
justification for the titles and dates will be discussed in the preface 
of each. For the present we may confine our attention to the pre- 
sent volume. Although it is entitled the Vedic Age it begins from 
the dawn of human activity in India, so far* as* it is known to us. 
Being the first volume of the series, it contains an introductory 
section dealing with certain general topics bearing upon the history 
of India as a whole. As there are some special characteristics which 
distinguish Indian history from that of other countries, it has been 
thought desirable to explain at the very outset its meaning and 
methods of approach as well as the pature of the material from which 
it has been reconstructed. The first three chapters have been de- 
voted to this subject. The next three deal with the background of 
Indian history, geological, geographical and biological. These chap- 
ters, particularly the first and third, may appear too technical for 
the historical student, and some may even regard them as too ela- 
borate for a treatise on history at all. But a knowledge of these 
topics is essential for a proper understanding of the evolution of 
Indian culture, and being written by acknowledged experts, these 
two chapters, it may be hoped, will place at the disposal of the 
reader adequate information on difficult but relevant subjects, 
which it would not be possibletfor them to acquire except by the 
patient study of bulky volumes of a highly technical nature, which 

few would be disposed to undertake. 

The next section, which may be regarded as the beginning of 
history proper, deals with the period before the Vedic Aryans settled 
ih this country. This, however, involves certain assumptions which 
are not unanimously accepted- Some scholars hold the view that 
India was the original home of these Aryans, and that there cannot 
be any question of their immigration into thifi country. Some have 
referred the Aryans to such hoary antiquity — tens of thousands^ of 
years ago according to more than one theory — that there can be no 
question of any historical period pripr to them. 

Similarly there is a divergence of o|5inion regarding the question 
whether the Indus valley civilization was pre-Aryan or post-Vedic. 
In the present state of oivr knowledge no dogmatic answer can be 

75 



THE VEDIC AGE 


given to these questions, and there is no theory that is likely to 
meet with general acceptance- ' Even our own contributors do not 
agree on these points. Dr. Pusalker, who has written on the Indus 
Valley Civilization, is inclined to regard it as not fundamentally 
different from the Aryan, and possibly posterior to Rigvedic culture, 
while- Dr. B. K- Ghosh and Dr. S. K. Chatterji, who have written 
on the Aryan and pre-Aryan peoples, take the opposite view- Such 
differences are inevitable in a to-operative undertaking of this 
kind. It has not been thought advisable to suppress these individual 
view-points, but cross-references have been given in order to impress 
upon the readers that stfch questions do admit of different answers 
and to enable them to judge for themselves the cogency of the 
arguments on which different theories are based. 

It has been the constant attempt of the Editor, by free and frank 
discussions, to reconcile the different points of view as far as practi- 
cable, and where complete agreement was unattainable, to have them 
presented in a manner which would convey the impression that they 
are not dogmatic assertions of contradictory views, but alternative 
solutions, each equally valid, of the problem concerned. Beyond 
that the Editor did not choose to go, by way of forcing a definite 
solution of an admittedly controversial problem. It has been thought 
better to risk even a seeming inconsistency among the different parts 
of the book rather than convey a false idea of a general agreement 
of views where no such unanimity really exists, or is possible under 
the present circumstances. 

The third section is devoted to a general consideration of the 
Indo-Aryans. It begins with a detailed discussion of the chief 
problems concerning them, viz. their original home, the date and 
route of their immigration into India, the antiquity of their Chief 
literary production, the Rigveda, and their relations with the Ira- 
nians with whom they must have lived in close and intimate contact 
long after their separation from the other branches of the Indo- 
European family- These are some of the most intriguing problems 
on which opinions differ widely, and an attempt has been made to 
present the different viewpoints, with emphasis on the one which 
appears to be most reasonable in the light of the evidence available 
to us. Although few scholars 'today believe India to be the original 
home of the Aryans, this theory has naturally a sentimental appeal 
to Indians, and has therefore been discussed in some detail in an 
Appendix to Chapter X. 

, The fourth section deals with the political history of the period. 
It has been customary hitherto to rely for such knowledge only on 
the few scattered historical notices contained in the Rigveda. Par- 
giter’s attempt to reconstruct a continuous historical narrative from 
th6 data, particularly the royal genealogies, contained in the Pura- 
pas and the Epics, has been systematically ignored in historical 

26 



PREFACE 

works, even in the comprehensive Cambridge History of India- put, 
in spite of obvious shortcomings,* Pargiter’s theories cannot be 
altogether discarded even on their merits, and the fact remains that 
they offer the only fair basis on which the ancient political history 
of India can be built up. So instead of being, content to glean a few 
isolated facts from the Rigveda, as has hitherto *been doile, we haye 
tried to trace a brief outline of the traditional history of early India 
on the lines laid down by PargKer. This must not, of course, be 
confused with history proper, but it possesses none the less great 
value of its own, both as a tangible framework for connecting a 
number of well-authenticated facts, and ds a basis for further in- 
vestigation of our historical knowledge of this obscure period. Par- 
giter has at least successfully demonstrated th^t it is a mistake to 
regard such great historical figures of antiquity as Puru^ Mandhata, 
Nahusha, Yayati, K^tavirya Arjuna, etc., as mere fanciful and 
mythological names, and any theory which gives them some sort of 
historical setting cannot but be regarded as of great value to students 
of Indian history. 

In spite of the limitations of our knowledge of the political 
history of the period, there can be no doubt that its chief interest 
and importance lie in the picture •of culture and civilization offered 
by the vast field of Vedic literature. Whereas everything else is 
but vaguely known, we possess nearly full information about the 
growth and gradual evolution of the Indian civilization from the 
well-marked stratification of the mass of literature, collectively 
known as the Vedas. It is also a matter of general knowledge that 
this civilization is the common basis on which succeeding generations 
of diverse races and localities have built up the imposing structure 
known as the Hindu civilization. This would explain why this 
volume has been entitled The Vedic Age, and detailed study has 
been made of it in three^ different sections, corresponding to the 
three well-marked stages of the* evolution of Vedic literature. 

There is a general agreement among scholars about the chrono- 
logical sequence of Vedic literature: the Rik-Samhitd representing 
the earliest stage, the other Saihhitas and Brahmanas the next, and 
the Upanishads and Sutras the concluding one. But while these 
chronological divisions are, broadly kpeaking, accurate, it is to be 
noted that they are to some extent overlapping, and it is difficult to 
draw an absolutely rigid line of demarcation between them. It is 
likely, for example, that some portions of the Atharva-Samhitd are 
as old as, if not older than, portions of the Rik-Samhitd, and sjme 
of the oldest Upanishads* certainly reach back to the Brahmana 
period. Nevertheless the general outlook of the three different 
categories of literature is. sufficiently distinct to label them as be- 
longing to three successive chronological periods, and they have 
been dealt with accordingly in three separate sections. 

27 



THE VEDIC AGE 


It is, however, a difficult p;*oblem to assign definite dates to the 
three literary stages of the Vedic period. In spite of extravagant 
theories about the antiquity *of the Rik-Samhitd, the view that it 
received its present form about 1000 B.C. has much to commend 
itself. Though mainly -based on philological grounds, as enunciated 
in Chapter* XII, this 'theory finds unexpected support even from 
Indian traditions. For some of the kings referred to in the Rik- 
Samhita seem to be identical witli those mentioned in the royal 
genealogies and occupying a low place in the dynastic list. Further, 
as Pargiter has pointed out, ‘‘the Epic and Puranic tradition unani- 
mously and repeatedly declares that the Veda was arranged by 
Vyasa,” who flourished about the time of the Bharata War, which 
has been dated between 1500 and 1000 B.C. by many scholars. 
Whatever we might thihk of this date, it is important to remember 
that along with the doctrine that “the Veda is eternal and everlast- 
ing,” there are also ancient traditions to the effect that it was com- 
piled by Vyasa not long before the great Bharata War. The view 
that dates the Rik-Samhitd, in its present form, to about 1000 B C., 
cannot therefore be regarded as absolutely wide of the mark and 
altogether without any basis of support in Indian tradition. But it 
must be remembered that although the Rik-Samhitd might have 
received its final shape in about 1000 B.C., some of its contents are 
much older, and go back certainly to 1500 B.C., and not improbably 
even to a much earlier date. 

There is no doubt whatsoever that the oldest Upanishads are pre- 
Buddhist, and some of them at any rate belonged to the seventh 
century B.C-, if not earlier still. The later Samhitas and Brahmapas 
accordingly may be placed, generally speaking, in the ninth and 
eighth centuries B.C. These dates are of course only provisional 
and are set down here as merely working hypotheses. 

No precise date can be assigned, to the end of the Vedic Age, 
for the Sutras and Upanishads, representing the last stage of Vedic 
literature, contain texts of varying antiquity. While, as mentioned 
above, some of them are probably as old as the seventh century 
B.C., if not older still, others are probably as late as the third or 
fourth century B.C. Although, therefore, the Vedic Age cannot be^ 
regarded, strictly speaking, as having come to an end in 600 B.C. 
with which this volume closes, this date has been selected mainly 
for two reasons In ttie first place, the sixth century B.C. saw 
the rise of Buddhism, Jainism, and other religious sects heralding 
that Protestant movement which was destined to bring to an end 
the unquestioned supremacy of Vedic religion and culture- Se- 
condly, our knowledge of political history 'becomes more precise and 
definite from the sixth century B.C., and we can clearly perceive 
how the stage was gradually set for the rise of the great Magadha 

^.8 



PREFACE 


empire ‘which constitutes the mosj distinguishing feature of, the 
succeeding period- • 

Although the age of the Sutras ’ahd Upanishads extends beyond 
600 B.C., culturally it is a direct offshoot and a continuation of. the 
earlier Vedic civilization, and reflects no special characteristic of 
the later era, such as we find ;n the Epics, Puranas, or Buddhist^and* 
Jaina literature. It has, therefore, been included in the volume 
dealing with the Vedic Age even^in disregard of the strict limitations 
of chronology. 

This volume attempts a picture of what may be regarded as 
the dawn of Hindu civilization. To continue this metaphor, we may 
say that the next two volumes reflect its full morning glory and 
noonday splendour; in the fourth volume we 'come across the sha- 
dows of the declining day, while dusk sets Hn*with the* fifth. Then 
follows the darkness of the long night, so far as Hindu civilization is. 
concerned, a darkness which envelops it even now- This gives a 
broad idea of the distribution of the first five volumes of this series. 

The Editor takes this opportunity of offering his sincere thanks 
to the contributors of this volume for their hearty co-operation, and 
to Professor H . G- Rawlinson for having kindly revised the MS. 

He notes with great regret that one of the contributors, Rao 
Bahadur K. N- Dikshit, late Director-General of Archaeology, Gov- 
ernment of India, passed away while the book was in the press, and 
takes this opportunity to convey his condolence to the bereaved 
family. His death has been a serious loss to Indian Archaeology. 

The Department of Archaeology, Government of India, has 
kindly supplied us with photographs for which we express our 
hearty thanks to the authorities. 

Some amount of repetition or overlapping is inevitable in a 
book of this kind where different authors deal with literature and 
the philosophical, religiouS, an^ social ideas mainly derived from it, 
and where the different chapters are closely related to one another. 

The system of transliteration adopted in this volume is that 
followed in the Epigraphia Indica. The geographical names have 
been spelt as in the Imperial Gazetteer, with a few exceptions such 
as “Krishna” for “Kistna,” “Narmada** for “Narbada.” Diacritical 
marks have not been used,* as a rule, in geographical names and 
oriental words with an English suffix’ (Pur anic, Rigvedic, Brahma- 
nical, etc ) except to indicate the long a gound (a). In the word 
Aryan, however, the a has not been lengthened as it may now be 
regarded as almost a naturalized English word 

In addition to footnotes, general references have been added 
at the beginning of some chapters ill order to indicate books or 
articles in periodicals which have been extensively used or frequently 
referred to in the body pf the text. No footnotes have been given 

29 



THE VEDIC AGE 


in Qhapter II as all the works, cited therein will be dealt with in 
detail in subsequent chapters. 

A Bibliography has been added for the convenience of those’ 
readers who wish to make special studies of any particular topic. 
As most of our knowledge regarding the history and culture of the 
Vedic Age is derived from "Vedic literature, and a large number of 
secondary texts also deal with the period as a whole, a General 
Bibliography has been given at the fend which covers the topics dealt 
with in Books IV, V, VI, and VII. Generally sp>eaking the Biblio- 
graphy is selective in character and does not aim at giving an 
exhaustive list of works oh the subject. The only exception to this 
is the Bibliography to Chapter IX where an attempt has been made 
to give a list of all important contributions on the Indus Valley 
civilization, as the subject is comparatively new and controversial 
in character, and it is difficult to assess the proper value of the 
different theories. As copious footnotes have been given in many 
chapters, important references indicated therein have not been 
included. 


to 



ASIA. 

ABORI. 

AE. 

AIHT. 

Ait. Br. 

AJA. 

AL. 

Anthrop. Soc. 
Jub. Vol. 

AP. 

Ap. Dh.S. 
Ap. S.S. 

ASI. 

ASS. 

AV. 

Bau. Dh.S. 
Bau. S.S. 
BDCRI. 

BEFEO. 

BIR. 

BMFA. 

Br. 

Brih. 

BSOS. 

BV. 

CAG. 

CAH. 

CAI. 

Chan-d. 

Chhand. 

CHI. 

. Comm. Vol. 
CR. 

cs. 

Cuit. Her. 

Dh. S. 

DKA. 

El. 

ERE. 


ABBREVIATIONS 

Annual Bibliography of Indian Archaeology, 
Leyden. .* 

Annals of the Bhandarkar Oriental Hesedrch -In- 
stitute, Poona. 

Ancient Egypt, London. 

Ancient Indian Historical Tradition, by F. E. 
Pargiter. 

Aitareya Brdhmana. 

American Journal of Archaeology, Philadelphia. 

Altindisches Leben, by H. Zimmer. 

Bom. 

Anthropological •Society^ of Bombay, Jubilee 
Volume. ’ 

Aryan Path, Bombay. 

Apastamba Dharma-sutra. 

Apastamba Srauta-sutra. 

Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of 
India. 

Anandasrama Sanskrit Series, Poona. 

Atharvaveda. 

Baudhayana Dharma-sutra. 

Baudhdyana Srauta-sutra. 

Bulletin of the Deccan College Research Insti- 
tute, Poona. 

Bulletin de-V&cole Frangaise d’Extreme-Orient, 
Hanoi 

Bharatiya Itihdsaki Ruparekhd (in Hindi), Vol. 
I, by Jaya Chandra Vidyalanl^r. 

Bulletin of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. 

Brahma^. 

Bfihaddrc^yaka Upanishad. 

Bulletin of the School of Oriental (and African) 
Studies, London. 

Bharatiya Vidyd, Bombay. 

Cunningham’s Ancient Geography of India, Ed. 
by S. N. Majumdar. 

Cambridge Ancient History. 

Chronology of Ancient India, by S. N. Pradhan. 

Chanhu-^ro Excavations, 1933-36, by E. J. H- 
Mackay. * 

ChhdndOgya Upanishad. 

Cambridge History of India. 

Commemoration Volume. 

Calcutta Review, Calcutta. 

Current Science, Bangalore. , 

Cultural Heritage of India. Published by Sri 
Ramdkrishna Centenary Committee, Calcutta- 

Dharma-sutra. ' . 

Dynasties of the Kali Age, by F. E. Pargit^. 

Epigraphia Indica, Delhi. 

Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Ed. by J. 

Hamngs. 

31 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Gau> Dh.S. 

GD. 

Geo|. Mag. 

Gr. S. 

Harappa. 

Hari. ' 

HASL. 

MIL. 

HIP. 

HOS. 

HSL. 

lA. 

lAL. 

IC. 

IHQ. 

ILN. 

Ind. Antiquities. 

Ind- Sc. Congress. 
Ind- Stud. 

IP. 

JA. 

JAHRS. 

Jai. G.S. 

JAOS. 

JASB. 

JBHS. 

JBHU. 

JBORS. 

JGIS. 

JGRS. 

JIH. 

JISOA. 

JMU. 

JOR. 

JRAI. 

JRAS- 

JRASB(L). 

JRASB(S). 

JRSA. 

JSHS. 


Gautama Dharma-sutra. 

Geographical Dictionary oj Ancient and Medie- 
val India, 2nd Edn., by N. L. Dey. 

Geological Magazine. 

Grihjya-sutra. 

Excavations at Harappa, by M. S. Vats. 

Hahvamsa (Bombay Edition). 

History of Ancient Sanskrit Literature, by t'. 
Max Muller. " 

History of Indian Literature. 

History of Inaian Philosophy, Vol 11, Creative 
Period, by S. K. Belvalkar and R. L). Ranade. 

Harvard Oriental Series, Cambridge, Mass. 

History of Sanskrit Literature, by A. B. Keith. 

Indian Antiquary, Bombay. 

Indian Art and Letters, London. 

Indian Culture, Calcutta. 

Indian Historical Quarterly, Calcutta. 

Illustrated London News, London. 

Studies in Indian Antiquities, by H. C. Raychau- 
dhuri. 

Indian Science Congress. 

Indische Studien, by A. Weber. 

Indian Philosophy, by S. Radhakrishnan. 

Journal Asiatique, Paris. 

Journal of the Andhra Historical Research 
Society, Rajahmundry. 

Jalminiya Grihya-sutra. 

Journal of the American Oriental Society. 

Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, Cal- 
cutta. 

Journal of the Bombay Historical Society, Bom- 
bay. 

Journal of the Benares Hindu University, Beha- 

res. 

Journal of the Behar and Orissa Research So- 
ciety, Patna. 

Journal of the Greater India Society, Calcutta. 

Journal of the Gujarat Research Society, Bom- 
bay. 

Journal of Indian History, Madras. 

Journal of the Indian Society of Oriental Art, 
Calcutta. , 

Journal of the Madras University, Madras- 

Journal of Oriental Research, Madras. 

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 
of ^Great Britain and Ireland, London. 

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great 
Britain and Ireland, London. 

Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal, 
Letters, Calcutta. 

Journal of the Rof^al Asiatic Society of Bengal, 
Science, Calcutta. 

Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, London. 

Journal of the Sind Historical Society, Karachi. 

32 



ABBREVIATIONS 


JUB. 

JUPHS. 


Ka^ha. 

Kau. S. 

Kaushi- 

Kena. 

KHDS 

KHR. 

KZ. 

MAGW. 


Manava G.S. 
Manu. 

MASI. 

Mbh. 

Mbh. (Cr. Ed.)- 


Mem. Geol. Surv 
Ind. 

Moh. Exc. 

Moh. Ind- 

MR. 

Mun^l. 

New Light. 

NIA. 

NR. 

OLZ. 

P. 

Panch. Br. 

PBA. 

PHAI. 

PIHC. 

POC. 

PPL. 

Weh. Civ. 
Prolegomena. 


QJMS- 

Rec. Geol. Surv. 

Ind. 

Rivers. 

RPVU. 


Journal o] the TJiiiiversity oj Bombay, Bombay. 

Journal of the U.P. Historical Society, Luch- 
now. 

Kafha (or Kdfhakaj Upanishad. 

Kausika Sutra. 

Kaushltaki Upanishad. ' > 

Kena Upanishad. 

History of Dharmasdstra, by P. V. Kane. 

Karnatak Historical Review, Dharwar. 

Kuhn’s Zeitschrift. 

Mitteilungun der Anthropologischen Gesells- 
chaft in Wien. 

Manava Grihya-sutra. 

Manusmfiti. 

Memoirs of the Archaeological Survey of India. 

Mahdbhdrata (= *Bombay Edition, unless spe- 
cifically stated otherwise). 

Critical Edition of the Mahdbhdrata, published 
by the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Insti- 
tute, Poona (used for the first five Parvans 
hitherto published). 

Memoirs of the Geological Survey of India. 

Further Excavations at Mohenjo-daro, by E. J. 
H. Mackay. 

Mohenjo-daro and the Indus Civilisation, by J. 
Marshall. 

Modern Review, Calcutta. ' 

Murufaka Upanishad. 

New Light on the Most Ancient East, by V. 
Gordon Childe. 

New Indian Antiquary, Bombay. 

New Review, Calcutta. 

Orientalische Literaturzeitung, Leipzig. 

Purdna. 

Paiichavirrusa Brdhnmna. 

Proceedings of the British Academy. 

Political Hihory of Ancient India, 4th Edn., by 
H. C. Raychaudhuri. 

Proceedings of the Indian History Congress. 

Proceedings of the All-India Oriental Confe- 
rence. 

Das Purdna Pancjialakshana, by W. Kirfel. 

Prehistorifi Civilisation of the Indus Valley, by 
K. N. Dikshit. 

Die Hymnen des kigveda, Vol. I.: Metrische 
und text-geschiclitlichf Prolegomena, by H. 
Oldenberg. 

Quarterly Journal of the Mythic Society, Ban- 
galofe. 

Records of the Geological Survey of India. 

f * 

Rivers of India, by B. C. Law. 

Religion and Philosophy of the Veda and Upa- 
nishads, by A. B. Keith. 

3.1 



THE VEDIC AGE 


RVi. 

Sankh 6r.S. 
Sat. Br- 
SAWM. 

SBA. 

SB£. 

SC. 

Sript. 

SD. 

SPAW. 

SS. 

SV. 

Sve. 

Taitt. 

Taitt. Br. 
Taitt- Sam. 
Tribes. 

Vas. Dh .S. 
Ved. Ind. 

Ved. Myth. 
Ved. Stud. 

VM. 

WZKM. 

YV. 

ZDMG. 

ZII. 


J^igveda. v 

Sankhayana Sraitta-sutra. 

Satapatka Brdhmano. 

Sitzungsberichte ■ der Bayerischen Akademie 
der Wissenschajten, Miinchen. 

Sitzungsberichte der Berliner Akademie der 
Wissenschajten. ^ 

Sacred Books of the East, Oxford. 

Science and Culture, Calcutta. 

The Script of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, by 
G. R. Hunter. 

Sanskrit Drama, by A. B. Keith. 

Sitzungsberichte der Preussischen Akademie 
der Wissenschajten. 

Srauta-siitra. 

Sdmaveda. 

Svetdsvatara Upanishad. 

Taittiriya Upanishad. 

Taittiriya Brdhmana. 

Taittiriya Samhitd. 

Tribes in Ancient India, by B. C. Law. 

Vasishtha Dharma-sutra. 

Vedic Index, by A. A. Macdonell and A. B. 
Keith. 

Vedische Mythologie, by A. Hillebrandt. 

Vedische Studien, by R. Pischel and K. F. 
Geldner. 

Vedic Mythology, by A. A. Macdonell. 

Wiener Zeitschrift fur die Kunde des Morgen- 
landes. 

Yajurveda. 

Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenldndische 
Gesellschaft, Leipzig. 

Zeitschrift fiir Indologie und Iranistik, Leipzig. 


34 



THE VEDIC AGE 

BOOK ONE 
INTROI^UCTION 




CHAl>TEJV I 

INDIAN HISTORY— ITS NATURE, 

SCOPE AND METHOD, 

History has been deiined a& “the study of man’s dealings with 
other men, and the adjustment of jiyorking relations between human 
groups.” The beginnings of the history of India, therefore, go back 
to that remote period when man first settled in this country. We 
need not discuss whether he migrated from outside or emerged here 
by a process of evolution from his animal ancestors. But in any case 
the earliest man has left little evidence to enable -us to investigate his 
thoughts, desires, activities or achievements.. VVe can only dimly 
discern his gradual growth as a sentient being amid the geological 
changes and physical and biological environment in which he found 
himself. To begin with, he was essentially a part of the plant and 
animal life that surrounded him, reacting passively to the climate 
and geographical configuration of the land. But he slowly gained 
consciousness of those powers and potentialities which distinguished 
him from other animals and enabled him to dominate over nature 
rather than remain its slave. 

The greater part of this process of evolution, which must have 
covered a long period of time, is only a matter erf inference based on 
very slender evidence. The study of this fascinating subject has 
made some progress in Europe, while so far as India is concerned, it 
is still in its infancy. But the little that is known shows that the 
prehistoric period in India presents features very similar to what 
we meet with in Western Asia and Europe. Here, as elsewhere, 
“man’s prehistory merges in the pageant of the animal world,” and 
is largely determined by hij natural surroundings. 

This volume, therefore, begins with a short account of the geo 
logical, geographical, and biological background of primitive man. 
This setting of the stage is followed by a study of the peoples who 
played their part therein. In the absence of any written record, 
the little that ^e know of their history and culture is based on ar- 
chaeological finds, such as tools and implements made of stone, 
bone or metal, potsherds, rude paintings and skeletal remains — 
exactly the same type of evidence on which the prehistoric study 
of other countries is based. • 

As we proceed with our narrative we gradually realize that ^he 
different phases of Indian history present a striking parallel to those 
of other countries which can boast of a culture and civilization going 
back to remote antiquity. *The’ stone implements and other remains 
of the palaeolithic and neolithic periods prove that human civilfica- 
tion began here in the san\p way, if not at the same time, as in other 

37 

V.A.— a 



THE VEDIC'AGE 


parts of the world. The development of this civilization through 
the copper and iron ages, presents features which, though not iden- 
tical, yet offer sufficient similjirity in detail with what we know of 
many other countries. The discoveries in the Indus Valley and ad- 
jacent regions have further emphasized the close association bet- 
ween the cultures' of India and those of Western Asia, and thereby 
link up Indian history with that of the most ancient period of the 
world known to us. ,, 

India now takes her place, side by side with Egypt and Mesopota- 
mia, as a country where we can trace the dawn of human civilization 
and the beginnings of those thoughts, ideas, activities and movements 
which have shaped the destinies of mankind all over the civilized 
world. The history of India thus possesses an aspect of univer- 
sality which so strikingly distinguishes the history of Egypt, Babylonia, 
and Assyria in the early, and Persia, Greece, and Rome in a some- 
what later age. In the case of each of these the universal aspect far 
transcends in importance the individual or regional aspect. This is 
not, however, the case with India. This difference has modified the 
outlook and treatment of the history of India and made it a problem 
almost sui generis. 

The chief difference between India and the other ancient coun- 
tries mentioned above lies in the continuity of her history and civiliza- 
tion. The culture and civilization of Egypt, Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, 
Assyria, and Persia have long ceased to exist. They are now mere past 
memories and their history possesses only an academic interest. Indian 
history and institutions, however, form an unbroken chain by which 
the past is indissolubly linked up with the present. The modern 
peoples of Egypt and Mesopotamia have no bond whatsoever with the 
civilization that flourished there millennia ago and its memorials 
have no more (usually very very much less) meaning to them than 
to any enlightened man in any part of the world. 

But not so in India. The icons discovered at Mohenjo-daro are 
those of gods and goddesses who are still worshipped in India, and 
Hindus from the Himalaya to Cape Comorin repeat even today the 
Vedic hymns which were uttered on the banks of the Indus nearly 
four thousand years ago. This continuity in language and literature, 
and in religious and social usages, is more prominent in India than 
even in Greece and Italy, where we can trace the same continuity in 
history. The social and religious ideas of ancient Greece and Rome 
and their philosophy end outlook on life, in short, some of the most 
essential factors which give individuality to a nation and preserve its 
continuity, are almost foreign to the peoples now inhabiting those 
lands. An artificial continuity is no doubt maintained in these two 
countries, and the link with the past is not altogether snapped, as in 
the cases of Egypt and Mesopotamia. Nevertheless, the difference 
can only be regarded as one of degree and not of kind; and neither 

38 



INDIAN HISTORY, ITS "NATURE, SCOPE AND METHOD 

Greece nor Italy offers a parallel to India, in respect of either anti- 
quity or continuity of civilization. •• • 

To this difference may be added the present position of India. 
Her political subjection and laqk of material power have relegated 
her to a position of marked inferiority in the eyes of the world. Both 
these causes have affected the study of the hii^io^y of India in mpre 
ways than one. It has not b^n easy, for instance, to bring a de- 
tached scientific spirit to bear on^the Study of the history of India. 
This spirit, which so conspicuously distinguishes European writers 
of the history of Egypt and ancient countries in Western Asia, is not 
seldom lamentably absent while they deal with the history of India. 
The reason is not far to seek, and may be traced to a psychological 
instinct or political prejudice. The India of today has cast its shadow 
on the past, and few writers have be&n able, tow disentangle the two 
and view each of them in its true perspective. The political history 
of India, even of ancient times, has been almost invariably viewed 
through the spectacles of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. 
V. A. Smith, the well-known historian of ancient India and a dis- 
tinguished member of the Indian Civil Service, never concealed his 
anxiety to prove the beneficence of the British Raj by holding before 
his readers the picture of anarchy* and confusion which, in his view, 
has been the normal condition in India with rare intervals. To him, 
as to many others before and after him, ancient Indian history after 
the death of Harsha-vardhana was merely a pathetic tale of political 
chaos and internecine struggles, pointing to the inevitable moral: 
“such was India and such it always has been till the British establish- 
ed a stable order.’' 

Sometimes the pendulum swings to the opposite extreme, and 
Indfan writers seek to find in ancient India a replica of the most 
advanced political institutions of the West. From isolated phrases 
of doubtful import they conjure up a picture of a full-fledged modern 
democracy and even of an up-to-date parliamentary form of govern- 
ment. This is a counterblast, from the Indian side, to the inveterate 
belief of European writers in undiluted autocracy as the only form of 
government that ever prevailed in India. To them “Oriental des- 
potism” is an article of faith that colours their whole outlook. Some 
have also inherited the classical ide*a that wisdom and enlighten- 
ment were always a sort of monopoly of the West, and the East, 
.comparatively as backward as she is today, must have acquired all 
the elements of higher culture from the West. 

The squalid poverty of modern India colours the outlook, on 
economic conditions in ancient and mediaeval times. Even enlighten- 
ed historians find it difficult to accept the view that Indians built 
ships and navigated the sefas, for no b^ter reason than that modem 
Indians show such an aversion from, and ineptitude for, maritime 
activities. Such instances may be multiplied to almost any extent. 

39 



THE VEDIC Age 

There are no doubt exceptions, but one cannot deny, or overlook, 
the broad fact that Indian history has suffered much from an instinct 
to read the present into the past. 

The opposite danger of reading the past into the present has 
been no less a potential factor in distorting the history of India. To 
many the most glafing imperfections and even the most degrading 
features of modern Indian social life are sanctified by antiquity. They 
have a tendency to judge everything they see before them, not by its 
present form and effect, but by a reference to what they conceive to 
be its original character, and the part it is supposed to have played 
in building up an ideal society in the past. This almost necessarily 
leads to the artificial creation of a golden age which rests mainly on 
imagination and intuition, independent of historical evidence. This 
intellectual support of false cioctrines and bad institutions in the 
name of India's past often proceeds from a perverted form of patrio- 
tic sentiments or an inborn sense of national pride. In either case 
it is a wrong interpretation of Indian history, and what is worse, 
such interpretation is often devised as an instrument for consecrating 
all deep-seated prejudices. 

The student of Indian history must avoid these pitfalls and follow 
the modern method of scientific ‘research. / /Our aim should be the 
discovery of the truth, and nothing but the truth, and in order to 
attain this goal we must apply our minds fearlessly and without pre- 
judice and preconceptions to the study of all available evidence. We 
should properly sift these data by all rational methods, handle them 
in the spirit of a judge rather than an advocate, and formulate our 
conclusions only as far as they permit us to do so. We may not 
achieve definite results in many cases, and final and decisive conclu- 
sions would probably be few and far between. But it is better to 
plead ignorance, express doubts and put forward alternative possi- 
bilities rather than definitely uphold a view on meagre and insuffi- 
cient grounds. We must be particularly on our guard where any 
such view is likely to evoke strong sentiments and passions or affect 
the interest of any class or community. The history of India’s past 
touches the present life of India on many points, and we may legiti- 
mately expect the one to gyide and control the other. This makes 
it all the more difficult, especially foi; an Indian writer, to take a 
detached view of the history of India and approach it in a purely 
scientific attitude. Nevertheless the difficulty, great as it is, must, 
be overcome, and a proper critical spirit should be cultivated, if we 
are^to read aright the story of India’s past and correctly understand 
its imnlications for the future. * 

We have so far dealt with the peculiar difficulties that confront 
us in the study of Indian history in view bf its continuity. Another 
obstacle, also of a somewhat special character, arises from the nature 
of the evidence on which the study must necessarily be based. The 

40 



INDIAN HISTORY, ITS ^lATURE, SCOPE AND METHOD 

different .classes .of evidence and their nature, scope and value will 
be discussed in detail in the ne^ft chapter. But some general points 
must be noted here in order to indicate both the limitations and the 
specific directions of our study. . 

/trhe first thing to remember is that for the longest period of 
Indian history, viz., from the earliest time dovjn’to the Muslim cpn- 
quest in the thirteenth century *A . D., a period of about four thousand 
years, we possess no historical taict of any kind, much less such a 
detailed narrative as we possess in the case of Greece, Rome, and 
China. The history of ancient India resembles, therefore, that of 
ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. In all these cases it has only been 
possible to reconstruct the skeleton with the help of archaeological 
evidence discovered in comparatively recent times. This history 
differs radically from what we normally understand by the word. It 
is mostly a string of names and incidents, often with wide gaps, and 
almost always without that fullness of detail which enables us to 
trace the causes and consequences of specific events, examine the 
various forces at work in their true perspective, mark the general 
tendencies of the epoch, explain the inner causes of the rise and fall 
of kingdoms and empires, or the progress and decay of races and 
nations, and determine the exact relation between the different 
elements of the body politic or the different aspects of life and society. 
These and many other features which make history a social science 
in the real sense of the term are lacking in the history of ancient 
India, more or less to the same extent as in that of other ancient 
civilizations that flourished in Egypt or Western Asia. 

But there is one very important difference. Ancient India has 
bequeathed to us a vast treasury of texts which represent the intel- 
lectfial and literary activities of more than two thousand years and 
cover a wide field. The earliest literary work, the Samhita of the 
Riguedfl, is at least three thousand years old and may be even con- 
siderably older. .' A continuous stream of literature flowing since that 
remote age, widening in course of centuries, and embracing almost all 
fields of human endeavour excepting political activity, throws a light 
on the civilization of India such as we do not meet with in cases of 
other ancient cultures. This mass of literature deals with philosophy 
and religion, including ethi(^, ritual’ and ceremonial; cosmogony, 
cosmology, geography, astronomy, and the allied sciences; political 
find economic doctrines and practices; and, in a minor way, with 
almost all branches of secular life. It includes, besides a mass of 
religious texts, purely literary works such as epics, lyrics, Kdvyas 
(poems), dramas and prose 'romances, as well as biographies and folk 
tales. This literature is as bulky in volume as it is varied in its con- 
tents. Although it does not help us very much in reconstructing the 
political history of ancient India, it throws a flood of light on, dnd 
enables us to trace the various stages in the development of, culture 

41 



THE VEDIC AGE 


and civilization in ancient India, such as is not possible in the case 
of ancient Egypt, Western Asia and China, and even Greece and Rome. 

This fact must be borne in mind in any approach to the study 
of ancient Indian history. v|We should not expect any critical and 
detailed narrative of the political events, or a proper estimate of the 
life and character 6f ^eat historical personages of whom we catch 
but fleeting glimpses in the moving panorama of the history of two 
thousand years that passes before mir eyes in a haze of mist or gloom. 
The galaxy of kings, generals, and statesmen which crowd, for ins- 
tance, the canvas of the history of Greece and Rome, the moving 
stories of their lives and activities, the surging mass of internal and 
external forces that shape the destiny of the state and set it going, 
sometimes in slow evolution and sometimes in revolutionary ardour, 
and the ebb and tidetof national glory from age to age with its intense 
human appeal and great lessons for posterity — all these and many 
other factors which form the spell of the history of Greece and Rome 
do not constitute the main force or the chief interest of ancient Indian 
history. That these elements were not lacking in the evolution of 
Indian history is proved by the occasional glimpses of great men 
and great events, of the same genre. But these are mostly shadows, 
without that glow and colour which endow them with life and spirit. 
Hence the picture is dull and lifeless and, being devoid of general 
interest, makes no passionate appeal to human mind. 

But though admittedly deficient in this respect, Indian history is 
abundantly rich in its delineation of the progress of the human mind 
and society from its earliest infancy to a comparatively mature state. 
Other civilizations must have passed through the same or similar 
stages, but we lack the means to trace them in such fullness of details. 
In no other case, for example, can we go back to the dim beginnings 
of those intellectual and moral ideas which appear to us in full matu- 
rity in the shape of a set form of religiora, theology, and philosophy. 
Thanks to the vast mass of Indian literature, we can not only do this 
but follow, in a general way, the long and tortuous ways which human 
civilization, at least in a large part of the world, has had to pursue in 
its weary and tedious onward march for thousands of years. This 
constitutes a claim for universal interest which should not be les.s 
keen than that inspired by the political history of Greece and Rome. 

The genius of each considerable group of huipanity is perhaps 
adapted more to one kind of end than to another. ^It has been argued 
that the Indians had a bent of mind which looked more to the inner 
seW than the outer body, to matters spiritual rather than the material 
world/^ In the absence of a fuller knowledge of the political histone or 
secular life of ancient India, it is difficult to set the final seal of ap- 
proval to this view, although*it is very generally held. But so far as 
available evidence goes, there cannot be the slightest doubt that Indian 
civilization manifests itself in a way and a form very different from 

42 



INDIAN HISTORY, ITS ^TATURE, SCOPE AND METHOD 

that with which we are familiar in the rest of the world. We have 
consequently to approach the history tii India in a different spirit, and 
adopt a different scale of values in order to appraise her culture and 
civilization. The wars and conquests, the rise and fall of empires 
and nations, and the development of political. ideas and institutions 
should not be regarded as the principal object of olir study, and*must 
be relegated to a position of secondary importance. On the other 
hand, more stress should be laid upon philosophy, religion, art, arid 
letters, the development of social and moral ideas, and the general 
progress of those humanitarian ideals and institutions which form the 
distinctive feature of the spiritual life of India and her greatest con- 
tribution to the civilization of the world. 

"""Nevertheless, the political history ^of each period, as far as it is 
known to us, must be the starting point of our study, as it forms the 
backbone of history. Its function may be compared to that of the 
skeleton in a human body which gives shape and distinctness to the 
mass of flesh and skin and marks it with the stamp of individuality. 

The greatest handicap in the treatment of the history of ancient 
India, both political and cultural, is thelibsence of a definite chrono- 
logy. The dates of political events and of the vast mass of literature 
which forms the basis of cultural study are but imperfectly known, 
and the farther back we recede, even a close approximation of these 
dates becomes more and more difficult and uncert^ain. This gives scope 
for endless discussions and wide differences of opinion. We experience 
a similar difficulty in the interpretation of data, as they are often 
vague and meagre. It is not always possible, and in many cases 
neither desirable nor profitable, in a general comprehensive history 
of Injlia, to review the different standpoint^, and the historian is often 
obliged to adopt one particular view, as against others, with or some- 
times even without brief reference to tfiem. For minute discussions 
of the merits of conflicting vi^ws the reader must be referred to special 
treatises or articles in journals. Great care should, however, always 
be taken to distinguish clearly the known from the unknown, and the 
doubtful from the certain, and to indicate, as far as possible, the range 
of our ignorance and uncertainty. Ignorance may not be bliss in 
historical studies, but it is certainly folly to be wise where wisdom 
is based on imperfect knowledge and serves merely as a cloak for 
dogmatism. As the following pages will Ishow, the path of the histo- 
fian is beset with difficulties, doubts, and uncertainties; he has often 
to advance laboriously through dubious tracks and not seldom loses 
them altogether. His task .frequently resolves itself into weighing 
one set of doubtful evidence against another in order to arrive at what 
appears to him to be the most reasonable conclusion. More often 
than not, such theories are all that he can offer. The historian, ho 
less than his readers, mus^ clearly recognize the provisional nature 


43 



THE VEDIC AGE 


of these hypotheses and be ready to see them modified or upset and 
replaced by others with the discovery of fresh data. They are slen- 
der but necessary foundations on which the history of India has 
been built up in the past and has tp be built in future. 

The observations hitherto made apply more particularly to the 
ancie^it period of indian history. With the beginning of the next 
period the situation is considerably improved by the existence of a 
series of chronicles, dealing with the history of India from the founda- 
tion of the political power by foreign Muslim invaders up to the eigh- 
teenth century A.D. These chronicles include detailed narratives of 
contemporary events as well as compilations of past history from 
older sources now lost to us. They cannot be regarded as an absolute- 
ly authentic account or impartial review of historical events, but 
supply ample data ^or the reconstruction of the history of the period. 
Both in scope and value they are comparable to the chronicles and 
historical treatises in Europe of the same period. Unfortunately 
these historical texts concern themselves primarily with the events 
and fortunes of the principal Muslim ruling dynasties, and dwell 
only very incidentally on the history of the smaller states, specially 
the Hindu kingdoms. Nor, with a few exceptions, do they throw 
much light on the life of the people at large outside the royal courts. 
Although, therefore, there is a great advance in our historical know- 
ledge over the earlier period, and in some cases we have got a 
pretty good historical account, it is, generally speaking, neither as 
definite nor as full as our modern historical sense would demand, in 
spite of the valuable additional help that the historian gets from 
other sources such as the archaeological evidence, official documents, 
contemporary literature, accounts of foreign travellers, etc. Never- 
theless it would be unjust to deny that from about 1200 A.D. India 
possesses a written history which would not suffer very much in 
comparison with the history of contei?iporary Europe, and might 
differ TTom it in degree, but not in kind. It is a fairly good and 

t iled history, but of kings and states, not of the country and 
people. 

'The thirteenth century A.D. may be regarded as a broad dividing 
line in Indian history in ^ more than one sense. The sovereign 
jpower passed into the hands of fore;Lgners who belonged to alien 
l^ces and professed a new religion of somewhat militant type, 
^e establishment, for the first time, of two diverse systems of 
culture and civilization led to a definite cleavage between the rulers 
and the ruled such as India had never known before. Indian history 
gains in content and becomes richer in detail, but loses unity of 
treatment. The stories of the ruling powers grow in volume, but 
we know little of the lot of the ruled who formed the vast mass of 
the people. 

The first three or four centuries of Muslim rule in India form 


44 



INDIAN HISTORY, ITS*NATURE, SCOPE AND METHOD 

a very important period of transition. The foreign rulers and the 
new religion with its exotic culture? took a long time to take root 
in the soil. But we have little reliable knowledge of the struggle 
for independence and the steps by which the resistance of the 
people was broken down.* Of the early reaction of Hinduism to- 
wards Islam, and the process by which the* latter gradually, made 
headway in this land of conservatism and orthodoxy, we know 
even less. The Muslim chronicless, our sole source of information, 
generally speaking, record only a series of cheap military victories 
over the rebellious or recalcitrant infidels, and these are looked down 
upon as merely hewers of wood and drawers of water whose life and 
fortunes are hardly of any consequence to them. They would have 
us believe that the triumphant banner of Islam merrily floated 
from one end of the land to the otheV, and nothing else^ counted in 
the country. 

But this is merely one side of the picture, and that of the lion 
painted by himself. We know that there was always a Hindu 
India, side by side with Muslim India, and it again asserted itself, 
both in politics and culture, in the fullness of time. It was not 
dead, but lay dormant in the early centuries of the foreign rule. 
The history of the Hindus, except in South India and Rajputana, 
during this period is, however, almost a blank page. The scanty 
remains of their literature throw some faint light on the social 
and religious changes that came over them, biit the little that we 
know merely xrasts into greater relief the depth of our ignorance. 

Light dawns again in the sixteenth century. The establishment 
of the Mughal power ushers in a new period of Indian history in 
which our knowledge of India as a whole is much fuller, and we 
begin to see things in their true perspective. The vision of a new 
India, built upon the only stable foundation of the love and con- 
fidence of the ruled and the fusion of the two great cultures, now 
emerges in clear light. Histoi^, though it still continues mainly 
to be the court history of the Muslim rulers, begins to visualize India 
as a whole, and takes note of Hindu India. The rosy dream of a 
politically united India, on a common cultural basis, is soon shatter- 
ed, but Hindu India comes to stay and the historian no longer loses 
sight of it. The balance is restored and the unity of Indian history is 
securely established. In spite of many vicissitudes, we can trace 
.the fortunes of India as a whole through the pages of history. 
This unity of treatment is never lost in later times. 

It is not necessary to dwell at length upon the modem histpry 
of India. Strictly speakiAg, it offers no peculiarities, in respect 
of sources of information or method of treatment, save and except 
the restrictions imposed By political considerations. The archives 
of the British Government are gradually being thrown open, and 
the Indian states also have recently adopted a more liberal policy 

45 



THE VEDIC XGE 


in this respect. Contemporary historical documents are ample, 
thohgh they have not yet bein worked out as fully or as inde- 
pendently as one could have derired. 

It will be hardly any exaggeration to say that Indian history, 
in a comprehensive sense, has so far been neither written nor even 
conceived in a propfer spirit. A clear grasp of the subject is general- 
ly lacking. An attempt has been made above to analyse the different 
factors that account for this lame>*.table state of things. We have 
also tried to indicate the true spirit in which the study of Indian 
history should be approached, the inherent defects and shortcomings 
imposed by lack of materials, and the likely dangers and pitfalls 
which the historian should avoid. 

The observations made above would also convey some idea of 
what the “History af India” nieans to its readers; what they might 
legitimately look for, and what they are likely to miss; the proper 
value they should attach to different aspects, and the profit they 
may derive from them; the resemblances as well as the differences 
which it offers to the history of other countries; and lastly, the ex- 
tent to which the interest of the subject is confined to the particular 
region and people of whom it treats or concerns a wider range of 
humanity. 


46 



CHAPTER* II 


SOURCES OF Indian history 

. . 

It will be abundantly clear ‘from what has been said in the pre- 
vious chapter that the sources of Ii^ian history differ considerably in 
its different periods. Broadly speaking, we may distinguish three 
such periods, viz.: (1) from the most ancient times to the end of the 
twelfth century A.D.; (2) from the thirteenth to the eighteenth 
century; and (3) the subsequent period. It will be convenient, 
therefore, to treat these three periods separately. 

• 

1. THE ANCIENT PERIOD 
A. Literary Sources 

The absence of any regular historical chronicle is the leading 
feature of this period. When we consider the vast mass of contem- 
porary literature and its extremely wide range, the almost utter 
lack of historical texts certainly appears as a somewhat strange 
phenomenon. Some people are, therefore, inclined to believe that 
such literature did exist, and explain its absence by a theory of 
wholesale destruction. It must be regarded, however, as extremely 
singular that the agencies of destruction should have singled out 
this particular branch of literature as their special target. But the 
strongest argument against the supposed existence of regular his- 
torical literature is the absence of any reference to historical texts. 
We have, therefore, to admit that the literary genius' of India, so 
fertile and active in almost all conceivable branches of study, was 
not applied to chronicling the records of kings and the rise and 
fall of states and nations, it is difficult to give a rational explana- 
tion of this deficiency, but the fkct admits of no doubt. 

The deficiency is all the more strange as there are indications 
that the ancient Indians did not lack in historical sense. This is 
proved by the carefully preserved lists of teachers in various Vedic 
texts, as well as in writings of the Bud4^>ists, Jains and other re- 
ligious sects. That this spirit also extended to the political field 
is shown not only by the songs and poems in praise of kings and 
heroes referred to in Vedic literature, but also by the practice of 
reciting eulogies of kings and royal families on ceremonial occasions. 
Even So late as the seventh century A.D. Hiuen Tsang noticed 
that each province in India had its own official for maintaining 
written becords in which were mentioned good and evil events, 
with calamities and fortunate occurrences. That this practice con- 
tinued for centuries after Hiuen Tsang is proved by a large number 
of local chronicles and the preambles in old land-grants which 

47 



THE VEDIC AGE 

record the genealogies of royal families, sometimes for several 
generations. 

We may thus presume that neither historical sense nor his- 
torical material was altogether wanting in ancient India. What 
was lacking was either the enthusiasm or the ability to weave the 
scattered raw materials into a critical historical text with a proper 
literary setting which the people would not willingly let die. In 
other words, in spite of great iiintellectual and literary activity, 
India did not produce a Herodotus or Thucydides, not even a Livy 
or Tacitus. It has been argued that this was partly due to the 
peculiar temperament of the people who, to use the words of Hiuen 
Tsang, “made light of the things of the present world.’’ But this 
explanation can be hardly regarded as satisfactory when we re- 
member the great progress of the Indians in various branches of 
secular literature, including law, political science, and the art of 
administration. 

Whatever may be the reason, the fact remains that the only 
concrete result of historical study in the most ancient period is to be 
found in long lists of kings preserved in the Puranas and the epics. 
These lists profess to trace the unbroken royal lines from the first 
human, king that ruled down to about the third or fourth century 
A.D. ‘The earlier part of them is obviously mythical, and the last 
part is undoubtedly historical; but it is a moot point to decide where 
the myth ends and reliable tradition begins. 

It is interesting to trace the gradual changes in the views of 
scholars regarding the historical value of these traditional royal 
lists preserved in the Puraijas and epics. At first they were re- 
jected wholesale without much ceremony. Later, the accounts of 
the dynasties ruling in the sixth century B.C. and later were ac- 
cepted as fairly reliable, as they were partially corroborated by 
the Buddhist literature and archaeological evidence. Next, the pre- 
ceding dynasties going back to the time of the Great War described 
in the Mahdhhdratg., which event is approximately placed in round 
numbers between 1500 and 1000 B.C., were also regarded by some 
scholars as furnishing a secure basis for history, though they were 
loath to accept as correct all the details about names and dates. 
So far as the account of the royal d 3 rnasties before the Great War 
is concerned, Pargiter was the first to make a bold attempt to co- 
ordinate the varying details into a skeleton of political history, and 
others have since followed in his footsteps. The difficulty of the 
tark is increased by the strongly marked differences in the various 
traditions, and the conclusions reached by the few scholars who 
have so far worked in this field show great divergences. The 
attempt to reconstruct the skeleton of political history before the 
Great War cannot, therefore, be regarded as yet leading to any 
satisfactory result. For the period following that (1000-600 B.C.) 

48 



SOURCES OF INDIAN HISTORY 

we have' at least, a working hypothesis, and it is not till we copae 
to the beginning of the sixth centur^'B.C. that we can firmly grasp 
the thread of the dynastic history of ‘Northern India. 

The traditions preserved m ancient Indian literature,, notably 
the Puraijas, thus form the main source of irrformation for the his- 
tory of the earliest period, and for the periotf before* the 'sixth 
century B.C. they constitute our only source. The Buddhist and 
Jain literatures of the succeeding pftriod form a valuable supplement 
and corrective to the evidence of the Purapas, and isolated references 
in other literary works, even grammatical texts, have proved to be 
very important historical data. 

For the later period, beginning with the Guptas, we have no 
texts like the Pura^as, giving even bare dynastic lists. But although 
Indian literature practically ignores the history* of the l«ng period 
of one thousand years that follow, it does not altogether cease to 
be of help. Apart from isolated references scattered in the vast 
mass of literature of all types, we have two classes of works that 
contribute directly to our knowledge of history, viz. biographies 
and local chronicles. 

It is fortunate that certain writers took the lives of their royal 
patrons as the theme of their literal works. Baiiabhatta, that great 
master of Sanskrit prose, wrote the Harsha-charita (life of the em- 
peror Harsha), and two poets, Vakpati and Bilhana, described the ex- 
ploits of Yasovarman and Vikramaditya (of the later Chalukya 
dynasty) in two epics, the Gaudavaho and the Vikramdnka-deva 
charita. We have also a curious poetical work, the Rdma~charita, 
in which the author uses throughout verses of double entendre, 
which, taken one way, describe the story of the Ramayanxi, and 
taken the other way, recount the story of king Ramapala of Bengal. 

Among other biographical works may be mentioned the Kuma~ 

. rap&la-charita of Jayasimha, Kumarapala-charita or Dvya^raya- 
k&vya of Hemachandra, Hamn^rd-kdvya, of Nayachandra, Nava- 
sdhasdnka-charita of Padmagupta, Bhojaprabandha by Ballila, 
Prithvirdja-charita of Chand Bardai and Pjithvirdja-vijaya (frag- 
mentary) by an anonymous writer. 

These and other works of the same olass cannot be regarded as 
genuine history, although they contain valuable historical infor- 
mation. Their object was the glorification of the king rather than 
tp give a true picture of his life and times, and they were mostly 
conceived by their authors not as historical flfexts, but primarily as 
mediums for showing their literary skill and ingenuity. 

Among the local chronicles, the most famous is the RdjataraAgint. 
It is a history of Kashmir, written throughout in verse, by Kalhapa 
in A.D. 1149-50. This is the only work'in ancient Indian liteileiture 
that may be regarded as an historical text in the true sense of the 
word. The author has not only taken great pains to collect his 

49 



THE VEDIC AGE 


material from the existing chronicles and other sources but, at the 
beginning of his work, he has lai4 down a few general principles 
for writing history which are remarkable as being far in advance 
of his age. Indeed they may be regarded as anticipating, to a large 
extent, the critical method of historical research which was not 
fully* developed till, the nineteenth century A.D. In view of the 
l^entable paucity of historical talent in ancient India, it is worth 
while quoting a few of Kalhapa’s observations, showing the high 
level which the Indian intellect had attained even in this much 
neglected sphere of activity. Regarding the strict impartiality to 
be observed by an historian Kalhana remarks: 

“That virtuous poet alone is worthy of praise who, free from 
love or Ijatred, ever restricts his language to the exposition ol 
facts.” (1. 7.). 

As to the method of collecting data we may quote the follow- 
ing verses among others (1. 14, 15); 

“I have examined eleven works of former scholars which con- 
tain the chronicles of the kings, as well as the views of the sage 
Nila {Nilapurdna) . 

“By the inspection of ordinances (.sdsuna) of former kings re- 
lating to religious foundations and grants, laudatory inscriptions 
tprasasti-paffc) as well as written records (sdstra), all wearisome 
error has been set at rest.” 

In spite of his excellent equipment and high ideals, Kalhana 
was unable to reconstruct the early history of Kashmir, for his enthu- 
siasm and industry could not make up for the lack of authentic 
material. His account of the period before the seventh century A.D. 
cannot be regarded as trustworthy, and it becomes more and more 
unreliable as we go back to more ancient periods. Nevertheless his 
attempt was creditable, and it is refreshing to find that he alone, 
of all Indian writers, has preserved some accounts of such for- 
gotten Indian rulers as ^ Kanishka. From the seventh century 
A.D., however, the Rdjatara^ini n^y be regarded as a reliable 
history of Kashmir. The author narrates the career of each king 
in chronological order with a fair amount of detail, showing scru- 
pulous impartiality in^his criticisni of men and events, and exhibit- 
iiig soundness of judgment and healthy liberality in his general ex- 
pression of views. As he gradually comes nearer his own age the 
history becomes fuller and more and more replete with interesting 
accounts of men and things. It ceases to be merely a chronicle of 
dry details and faithfully presents the ebb and flow of national 
life, the periods of glory and misery, and the greatness and weak- 

50 



SOURCES OF INDIAN HISTORY 

ness of men and rulers — in short all those minute details which n\ake 
history a record of intense humaii* interest, faithfully portraying 
the march of events through which a people works out its own 
destiny. We close the book with a poignant regret that we do not 
possess such a history for the whole of India, or many more texts 
of the same kind dealing with other parts of-tlie countly. 

Kalha^a’s example was not lost upon his countrymen and 
several writers of Kashmir continued his chronicle. Jonaraja, who 
died in A.D. 1459, imitated Kalhana’s style and brought the histo- 
rical narrative up to the reign of Zain-ul-Abidin. The Jaina- 
Rdjatayangini by his pupil 6rivara covers the period A.D. 1459-85. 
Then came Prajya Bhafta and his pupil Suka who carried on the 
history till a few years after the conquest of Kashmir by Akbar. 
These later works are, however, mucfi inferior *10 the Rdjatarangini 
both in literary style and in historical accuracy. 

Next to Kashmir, reference may be made to a large number 
of chronicles of Gujarat. These include well-known works like 
Ras-Mdld, Kirtikaumudi of Somesvara, Sukrita^schhkirtana of 
Arisiihha, Prabandha-Chintdmani by Merutuhga, Prabandha-kosa by 
Rajasekhara, Havimira-mada-mardana and Vastupdla-Tejahpdla-pra- 
sCLsti of Jayasimha, Sukritakirti-katlolini of Udayaprabha, Vasanta- 
vildsa of BMachandra, etc., which are treasure-houses of stories and 
fables as well as historical anecdotes. The two biographies of 
Kumarapala, referred to above, and these chronicles enable us to 
trace the history of Gujarat, specially under the Chaultikyas, with 
fullness of details such as is not possible in the case of any other 
kingdom in ancient India except Kashmir. 

There were probably local chronicles of Sind which formed the 
basis of an Arabic history of which we possess a Persian transla- 
tion, the Chachndma, composed at the beginning of the thirteenth 
century A.D. It gives a detailed account of the Arab conquest of 
Sind and briefly refers to its history during the previous century. 

We have also local chronicles of Nepal, which merely contain 
a list of kings and the duration of their reigns, with only a few de- 
tails here and there. The earlier portion of these Vamsdvalis — as 
they are called — is purely mythical, but .there seems to be an histo- 
rical basis for the accounts r(»Lating to the period commencing from 
the first century A.D. The list is not, however, -carefully compiled. 
There are wide divergences between the different chronicles, and 
many details are proved to be wrong by epigraphic evidence. These 
chronicles were never worked into historical texts by a genius* of 
the type of Kalhana, and Although in the absence of other sources 
they supply the framework for the history of Nepal, they cannot be 
regarded as a satisfactory substitute for real and genuine history.. 

The existence of historical chronicles in Kashmir, Gujarat, Sind, 
and Nepal supports the presumption that the archives of different 

51 



THE VEDIC AGE 


states, as a rule, contained such royal chronicles, as stated by Hiuen 
Tsang. These chronicles, unless raised to the status of a literary 
work of the type of Rdjataraagirfi, or included in pretentious or 
sacred wprks like the Puranas, are not likely to long survive the 
fortunes of the dynasty whose history they recorded. This pro- 
bably ' accounts for their general destruction, though a few have 
been preserved in outlying places, like Kashmir, Gujarat, Nepal, 
and Assam (in a later period). 

B. Archaeology 

If we had to depend on literary sources alone we would have 
known very little indeed of the history of India for the thousand 
years that elapsed since the ^all of the Andhras in the third cen- 
tury A.D. Our knowledge of, this period would have been even 
much less than that of the thousand years preceding it. Fortu- 
nately the gap has been filled by the actual remains of this ancient 
period in the shape of coins, inscriptions, and monuments. They 
have enabled us to reconstruct an outline of the history of the 
period which, vague and imperfect though it is, forms the only sure 
foundation on which the history of India will have to be built up 
in future. 

Indian archaeology is a science of recent growth, and is barely 
a century old. Its pioneers were a few enterprising European 
scholars who took a deep interest in the antiquities of India and 
made an earnest effort to unravel her past. The origin and progress 
of this fascinating labour of love, which culminated in organized 
departments of research and exploration, achieving wonderful 
results, has been reviewed in the next chapter. Here we .may 
merely tabulate these results by way of indicating their bearing 
on the history of India. 

I. Inscriptions . — Inscriptions have proved a source of the highest 
value for the reconstruction of the political history of ancient 
India. Being engraved on stone and metal they are free from the 
process of tampering to which books or other dociunents written 
on perishable materials are liable. Their value as contemporary 
documents thus remains unimpeachable. Although not always 
dated, the character of the script enables us to determine their ap- 
proximate age. Thus as historical evidence they take precedency 
over the mass of literature, as the age of most of the texts is uncer- 
tain and they all must have undergone considerable modifications 
in the course of being preserved in copied through hundreds of years. 

Apart from these considerations, the nature of many of these 
inscriptions invests them with a high degree of historical importance. 
The series of Indian inscriptions opens with the memorable .edicts 
bf the great Maurya Emperor Aioka, engraved on rocks and pillars 

sr 



SOURCES OE INDIAN HISTORY 

throughout his vast empire, from beyond the Indus in the west 
to the Mysore plateau in the &outl:\« These are royal proclama- 
tions and commandments, mostly in ^ his own words, and convey 
across twenty-two centuries the life* and personality of a great 
man and a great ruler with, a striking vividness to which -there is 
hardly any parallel in the history of the world. It is pither the 
strangest freak of nature or the*rare good fortune of India, if not a 
divine dispensation, that in the midst of an almost wholesale destruc- 
tion of historical materials of the period, one fragment alone should 
have been spared, so faithfully reflecting that spiritual greatness 
which constitutes the glory of Indian civilization and its special cha- 
racteristic. The records of Asoka form a class by themselves, . and 
contribute largely to our knowledge of the history of the period and 
the spirit that animated one of the greatest men that ever sat on a 
royal throne. No other inscriptions make even a near approach to 
them in point of interest or historical importance. 

One form of alphabet is used in all these records, excepting two 
groups in the north-west, which are written in an altogether different 
script. The latter, known as Kharoshthi, was obviously derived from 
Aramaic and, like the Semitic alphabet, was written from right to 
left. It continued in use in the ngrth-western corner of India for 
many centuries, but vanished without leaving any trace behind. 

The script in which all the other inscriptions of Asoka were 
written is known as Brahmi, and is written from left to right. It is 
the earliest form of Indian writing known to us, and from it have 
been derived, by slow evolution through ages, all the Indian charac- 
ters current today, including Tamil, Telugu, and Kanarese. When 
the records of Asoka first came to notice towards the close 
of the eighteenth century, their script was as much an enigma to 
all as in the fourteenth century A.D., when the Emperor Firuz 
Tughluk brought a pillar with Aioka’s inscription to Delhi, and 
‘ made a vain attempt to have it, read by j^e Indian Pundits. The 
deciphering of the Asokan inscriptipns by Piinsep (described in detail 
in the next chapter) is one of the romances of archaeology comparable 
to those associated with the discovery of the clue to the hierogly- 
phics and cuneiform writings. It was accomplished in A.D. 1837, 
and in course of the next fifty years Indian epigraphy was placed, on 
a firm footing.. By the devoted and patient labour of a number of 
scholars the different types of Indian scripts were thoroughly studied, 
analysed, and classified, and a scientific baste laid down for Indian 
palaeography, which has made it possible to corelate them to diffe- 
rent ages and localities. Apart from their intrinsic interest as his- 
torical records, the Aiokan inscriptions have thus proved of great 
value as the starting-point of epigraphic and palaeographic studies 
in India. 

The inscriptions of the post-A^okan period may be broadly 

53 



THE VEDIC AGE 


divided into two classes, official and private. The official records 
are in most cases either prasnstis, i.e. eulogies of kings written by 
their court-poets, or land-grants. The most famous example of the 
former is furnished by the long record of Samudra-gupta engraved 
oft an Asokan pillar, now in the 'Allahabad fort. It describes in 
great detail the personal qualities and the military achievements 
of the great Gupta ‘emperor and forms the chief document of his 
memorable reign. The age of the Imperial Guptas is now justly 
regarded as the Golden Age of India. But all memories of it, and 
even the very name of Samudra-gupta — the Indian Napoleon — who 
laid the foundations of the Gupta empire, were lost to Indian tradi- 
tion. The Allahabad prasosti has preserved from oblivion the 
name and fame of this great hero and, along with a number of other 
inscriptions, forms the maini. basis of our knowledge of the Gupta 
period. The Gwalior prasosti of Bhoja has similarly thrown a flood 
of light on the imperial Pratiharas, another forgotten dynasty of 
ancient India. 

Among other praiastis, supplying valuable historical informa- 
tion, may be mentioned that of king Vijayasena of the Sena dynasty 
of Bengal engraved on a slab of stone found at Deopara. Its nomi- 
nal object is to record the building of a temple by Vijayasena, but 
it is almost wholly devoted to a panegyric of the great king, record- 
ing his victories and achievements in the most high-flown language. 
The Aihole inscription of Pulakesin II, the Chalukya king, belongs 
to exactly the same type. 

By far the largest niunber of official documents are charters 
conveying the sale or gift of lands. These are mostly engraved on 
copper-plates, though in very rare instances they are also found 
on stone pillars and in temples. These charters define the boun- 
daries of the lands and specify the object and conditions of the 
grant, often enumerating other interesting details such as the 
price of land, the mode jpf its measurement, exhortations to future 
kings not to confiscate ^e grants, and quotations from the scrip- 
tures threatening severe punishment after death for those who vio- 
late the grants in any way. 

Interesting though these details are in many ways, they do 
not contain much that is Of historical importance. But by a form- 
al convention, fortunately followed ‘in many if not in all cases, 
these charters begin with' a sort of royal praiasti which gives a 
short account of the, donor’s family for several generations, and 
describes in greater detail the life and achievements of the ruling 
king. These formal and introductory portions in the land-grants 
have supphed us with invaluable historical material. Sometimes, 
as in the Chola inscriptions, this introductory part runs to a very 
great length, and forms a valuable historical document by itself. 
Very often this portion was wholly or partially stereotyped in the 

54 



SOURCES OF INDIAN HISTORY 

royal archives and used in several grants. ‘Sometimes the portion 
was independently engraved on^ copper-plates and these were k6pt 
ready in the office, so that when occ^ion arose, only the details of 
the grant had to be added to make them formal charters. In short, 
this historical part had little organic connection with the 'grant it- 
self, and may be regarded as a prasasti prefixed to it. • , _ 

These prasastis were composed by court-poets or other royal 
officials, and one would naturally, hesitate to take them at their 
face value. There is undoubtedly a great deal of exaggeration in 
the effusions of the poets. It is customary for them to endow 
their patron-kings with all the ideal virtues and to represent them 
as the rulers of the whole world girdled by the four oceans. Such 
general expressions must be discarded as of no historical value. 
But greater value attaches to the specific enymerations of cam- 
paigns, victories, and conquests; for these documents were public 
property, and their authors would be justly exposed to ridicule if 
they had made categorical statements without any basis whatsoever. 
Of course they were expected to exaggerate the achievements 
of their masters, but even such exaggeration implies a sub- 
stratum of fact. A great deal of caution is therefore needed to 
assess the proper value of the claims made on behalf of a king, 
and they should be checked by all possible means. Such checks 
are furnished by the statements made on behalf of the rival kings, 
and sometimes welcome corroboration is afforded by independent 
evidence. 

In cases where the inscriptions are engraved on rocks or 
objects not easily portable, their find-spots become of great impor- 
tance as indicating the territorial jurisdiction of the king. Some- 
times the records of vassal chiefs and finds of coins corroborate the 
claims of territorial conquests. By these and other means it is 
almost always possible to jnake legitimate inferences from these 
documents about the achievements of th|| kings. 

The official documents, however, forth only a very small pro- 
portion of the inscriptions. By far the larger majority are privcite 
records. Tliey cover a wide range, from a short votive inscrip- 
tion of two or three words to pompous poetical compositions glori- 
fying an individual or family. They* throw light on various 
aspects of society even where they do not directly contribute to 
political history. A good many are engraved on images of gods 
and religious buildings, recording pious donations. These- .consti- 
tute the chief means of fixing the dates of these images and build- 
ings, and have been of incalculable help in tracing the evolution of 
art and religion, and determining their general condition in any 
specified period. Similarly the language and style of the inscrip- 
tions have been of immense value to the linguistic and literarj^ 
history of India. The evidence of the inscriptions, taken in mass, 

55 



THE VEDIC AGE 


is unerring in these respects. If we analyse, for example, the 1500 
or more inscriptions prior to ihe Gupta age that have so far come 
to light, we find an overwhelmingly large number — more than 95 
per cent — written in Prakyit and concerned with non-Brahmanical 
religiouS^ sects, maiidy Buddhist and Jain. The proportion is 
almost just the reverse in favour of the Sanskrit language and the 
Brahmanical religion, if we take the inscriptions of the period sub- 
sequent to the Gupta age. Evep, allowing for all accidental factors, 
this one fact betokens a sweeping change in the life of the people 
both in respect of the religious ideas and the medium of literary 
expression. 

These inscriptions also throw important light on political 
history. Many of them refer to ruling kings otherwise unknown, 
and some of them even supply dates, either in regnal years or in a 
s{>ecified or unspecified era. This has been a prolific source of the 
constant addition to our historical knowledge, though where supple- 
mentary evidence is lacking we know little more than the royal 
name, his approximate date and the location of his kingdom. But 
even such scraps of information, pieced together, have enabled the 
historian to reconstruct a clear outline of the history of a locality 
or even of a definite period, of which little was known before. 

In a few cases the private records throw more direct light on 
the political history of India, as they emanate from persons closely 
connected with a royal family. We have, for example, interesting 
records of families whose members for generations held high offices 
like ministers or generals. In others the importance of an indi- 
vidual is indicated by the office he held, or the part he played in 
the affairs of state. These inscriptions, though issued by or in 
honour of private individuals, therefore incidentally give us a 
great deal of information about the kings and political condition of 
the time. 

On the whole it mi|| be said without any hesitation that the 
epigraphic records of anient India have been the principal source 
of our information regarding the political history, and have also 
proved to be of great value by supplementing literary evidence in 
regard to the social, religious, and economic condition of India. 

2. Ifumismatics . — Next to the inscriptions, coins are the most 
important source of the history of ancient India. Many thousands 
of these have come to light. Hoards have been unearthed in dif- 
ferent parts of the country — a single hoard sometimes yielding 
muiy thousands — and individual specimens have constantly been 
found on or near the surface of ancient sited. Most of them at 
first passed into the hands of private individuals, but a number 
were recovered by scholars or acquired by public institutions. 
I^ere is no doubt, however, that quite a large proportion was 

56 



SOURCES OF INDIAN HISTORY 

melted or otherwise lost to antiquarian study, and this deplorable 
state of things is unfortunately «till ‘going on. A systematic stuidy 
and collection of coins has been possible only in cases of regular 
archaeological excavations. Nol> only were many coins, otherwise 
acquired, lost to us, but no systematic record,* has been kept of the 
provenance of those which hav^ survived. This has beeii a serious 
handicap to the scientific study of the coinage, as much of the 
historical importance of a coin is test if we cannot determine the 
exact locality of which it formed the currency. 

The importance of numismatics for the study of the economic 
condition of a country is too obvious to need a detailed considera- 
tion. Here we shall only indicate how coins have helped us to 
reconstruct the political history of the various periods. 

The earliest coins of India bear only figures, devices, or 
symbols, but with few exceptions, no legends. These coins were 
sometimes cast in dies, but more often the symbols were punched 
on the metallic pieces. Sometimes there are many symbols, pun- 
ched at different times. They were most probably deliberately 
stamped by the issuing authority, in order to guarantee their 
genuineness and value. These authorities might have been kings 
or states, but also certainly included individual merchants, trade- 
guilds, city-corporations, and similar bodies, for the idea of a state 
monopoly of minting coins was yet unknown. _ In the absence of 
legends, it is impossible to allot the different coins to these differ- 
ent categories. The meaning of the figures and symbols, once 
familiar to the people using these coins, is no longer clear to us, 
though some of them are familiar objects or well-known conven- 
tional designs. Various suggestions have been made regarding 
their significance, but they are highly speculative and rest on no 
secure foundations. Apart from conveying some vague religious 
ideas and artistic convention® these coin^do not supply any histo- 
rical information. The rare legends on ®im refer to the mercan- 
tile corporations which issued them. ' 

It is not till after the Greek invasion that we come across 
coins with the names of kings clearly engraved on them. Except- 
ing, perhaps, a few coins of the time of Alexander, the most im- 
portant series of such coins were those issued by the Greek rulers 
of Bactria who ultimately conquered the Punjab and North-West- 
ern Frontier. The artistic excellence of these coins has never 
been surpassed in India, and the portraits of kings and other figures 
on them show Hellenistic art at its best. These coins of the 
Graeco-Bactrians set a new fashion and may be said to have revo- 
lutionized Indian numismatics. The most important feature added 
to Indian coins from this time forward was the name, and some- 
times even the portrait, of the sovereign who issued them. How 
greatly it has helped our knowledge of political history will . be 

57 



THE VEDIC AGE 


apparent from the fact that |t is from these coins alone that we 
know of nearly thirty Greek kings and queens who ruled in India. 
The classical writers have referred to only four or five of them, b\it 
not only were the names of the rest unknown to them, but even 
the very memory of the Greek domination over a corner of India 
for nearly two centuries was absolutely lost. This remarkable 
historical episode, interesting alike to Greece and India, came to 
the knowledge of the world, afJer nearly two thousand years, by 
the discovery of those fine series of coins — of gold, silver, and 
copper — which now adorn many public museums in Europe and 
India. 

The coinage of the Greeks was imitated by the Scythian and 
Parthian invaders who followed in their footsteps, and although 
the execution of thfeir coins is far inferior, they are equally impor- 
tant for historical purposes. Here, too, the coins alone have enabled 
us to reconstruct an outline of their history, and recover the names 
of quite a large number of their rulers. One branch of the Scythian 
invaders, who settled permanently in Gujarat and the Kathiawar 
Peninsula, issued coins which not only gave the name of the ruling 
king and that of his father, but very often also the date in the 
well-known Saka era. This has enabled us to reconstruct the 
history of the Western Satraps — as these rulers are called — for a 
period of more than three hundred years. With the exception of a 
few inscriptions and literary references, which otherwise would 
have been of little help, the coins have been the sole source of our 
information regarding the Greeks, the 6akas and the Parthians 
that entered India after the dissolution of the Mauryan Empire. 
The Kushanas who followed them likewise issued a large nupaber 
of chins, but the history of this dynasty is also known from other 
sources. 

The coins have alsq|^Mn the principal source of our informa- 
tion regarding the valJ|P Indian states — both monarchical and 
republican — that flourished during the same period. Most of 
them, like the Malavas, Yaudheyas. the Mitra rulers of Panchala 
etc., are almost exclusively known from their coins. In other 
cases, like the Satavahanas of the Deccan, the Puranic account is 
corroborated, corrected, and supplemented by their coins and 
inscriptions. 

The Guptas, who founded the f^reatest empire in India after 
the Mauryas. issued a larj^e variety of fine coins. Although we 
ktiow a great deal of their history frpm epigraphic records, the 
coins form an important additional source of information. 

With the downfall of, the Guptai^ the numismatic evidence 
ceases to be an important source of history. Isolated coins, here 
and there, have no doubt proved to be of great value, but they 
seldom afford us material information not otherwise available. It 

58 



SOURCES OF INDIAN HISTORY 


is a curious fact that coins of even great emperors like Harsha pr 
ruling dynasties like the Chalukyas, ^Rashtrakutas, Pratiharas and 
Palas, not to speak of lesser kings and dynasties, are either un- 
known or of little significance. 

• 

3. Monuments . — In addition to coins and inscriptions weTiave 
other antiquarian remains, such as buildings or parts thereof, 
statues of stone or metal, terra cStta, ornamental and decorative 
fragments, pottery, and various other objects of a miscellaneous 
character. They are of great importance in tracing the history and 
evolution of Indian art. The art of a country is generally regarded 
to be a fair index of its culture, and it throws light on some higher 
aspects of its civilization which cannot be easily understood from 
other sources. The remains of Indian monuments have 'thus con- 
siderably helped towards a proper appreciation of the life and spirit 
of ancient India. 

In addition to individual monuments, sometimes we have the 
vast remains of an ancient city laid bare before us. Some of them, 
like those of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa^ have opened before us 
an altogether new type of civilization, reaching back to an age of 
which no memorials in India were known before. This has carried 
back the antiquity of Indian culture and civilization by several 
thousands of years and opened up a new vista* of its history, cha- 
racter, and association with the outside world. It has also trans- 
formed our ideas of the origin of Indian civilization. We can no 
longer derive from the simple fact of the Aryan migration the com- 
plex structure of later Indian civilization, but must look for more 
than ’one source which fed the mighty stream. Even in concrete 
matters our ideas have undergone great changes. As an instance 
may be cited the origin of Brahmi smp t (used in the Asokan 
records) which, as noted above, Is the from which all 

Indian alphabets have been derived. 

Scholars have almost unanimously held the view that Brahmi 
was derived from a foreign source, though they widely differ about 
its identity. But more than five hundred seals have been discover- 
ed at Mohenjo-daro which cqptain a species of pictorial writing. 
This has not been deciphered yet, but thq probability of the Brahmi 
alphabet being derived from it is now being seriously considered. 
Similarly the deep-rooted conviction that Indian art originated 
from a foreign source not much earlier than the third century B.G., 
has been considerably shaken by the discovery at Mohenjo-daro of 
finely carved stone figures^ of the third millennium B.C. which 
would not unfavourably compare with the statues of the classical 
period in Athens. The archaeological excavation of the Indus valley 
is still at its infancy, and we may look forward to its continuation 

59 



THE VEDIC AGE 


as opening up a brilliant chapter of Indian history as yet unknown 
or even undreamt of. 

Coming down to historical times, the systematic excavations 
of ancient sites like the city of TaxHa or the monastic establishments 
at Sarnath (near Benares) have thrown light upon various aspects 
of life of which there is little or no record in literature. Such ex- 
cavations, as will be noted in the next chapter, have been few and 
far between. Still, meagre though they are, compared with the 
vast extent of the country, these archaeological excavations have 
enabled us to realize some interesting aspects of Indian civilization 
which would have been otherwise unknown. 

C. Foreign Accounts 

In addition to‘ literature and archaeological remains we have 
another interesting source of information in the accounts left by 
foreign writers. The earliest among them are the two Greek 
writers Herodotus and Ctesias, both of whom must have derived 
their information indirectly through Persian sources. Herodotus 
gives some useful information along with a great deal of fairy tales, 
but the account of Ctesias largely consists of incredible fables. Far 
greater intere.st attaches to the writings of those Greeks who accom- 
panied Alexander to India, and the account of Megasthenes, who lived 
for some time in the court of Chandragupta Maurya as an ambassador 
of Seleucus. Though these works are mostly lost, much has been 
preserved in books, based upon them, written by later authors. 
These accounts contain a great deal of information that is both inte- 
resting and authentic, but they suffer from the defects inherent in 
the writings of foreigners, ignorant of the language and customs 
of the country. While great importance naturally attaches to what 
they recorded from personal observation, we must treat with great 
reserve their accounts b|j|j|| on others” reports or hearsay evidence. 
Due allowance must awHP made for the necessarily limited circle 
within which a Greek ^®t have moved in India, and his natural 
proneness to see everything through Hellenic eyes and distort or 
exaggerate an 3 rthing that was strange or unfamiliar to him. It 
would be foolish to belittle the importance of the classical accounts 
of India, but it would be equally unwise to put implicit faith in 
everything contained in them. 

Special reference must be made to the classical writers who 
have elucidated the geography and natural history of India. The 
earliest of them is the anonymous author of the Peripltis of the 
Erythraean Sea. He was a Greek, settled in Egypt, who made a 
voyage to the Indian coast about A.D. 80 and left a record of its 
ports, harbours, and merchandise. This short account, full of in- 
teresting information, is worth its weight in gold, as it has preserv- 
ed from oblivion a phase of the trade and maritime activity in 

60 



SOURCES OF INDIAN HISTORY 

ancient India, otherwise unknown. Ptolemy wrote a geographi 9 al 
account of India in the second oentuiy A.D. on scientific lines. His 
data being derived from secondary sources, he has fallen into nume- 
rous errors, and his general conception of the shape pf India 
is also faulty in the extreme. Noverthel^s the attempt was 
praiseworthy and has supplied valuable information. The ‘same 
may be said of Pliny’s account of Indian animals, plants, and mine- 
rals written in the first century A.’®. There were also many other 
writers of a later date. 

These classical accounts, most of which have been translated 
into English by J. W. McCrindle, were generally prompted by a 
spirit of exploration of unknown lands, and reflect great credit on 
their authors and the scientific spirit o^ the age in which they lived. 
The same spirit was displayed a few centuries luter by Arab sailors 
and merchants, some of whom, like Sulaiman and A1 Mas’udi, have 
left brief records of India. The gap in the interval between the 
two periods is filled by Chinese writers, both chroniclers at home 
and pilgrims who visited India. 

The writings of the Chinese travellers to India form a valuable 
supplement to the classical accounts. Three of them, Fa-hien (fifth 
century A.D.), Hiuen Tsang, and* I-tsing (seventh century A.D.) 
are better known than others, and have recorded their experiences 
in fairly bulky volumes which are happily preserved in their original 
forms and have been translated into English. All three spent a num- 
ber of years in India and learnt its language, and the first two 
travelled widely almost all over the country. In these respects 
they had an undoubted advantage over the Greek travellers. But 
unfortunately for the historian of India, these eminent Chinese 
visitors were all devout Buddhist monks, whose journey to India 
was merely a pilgrimage to holy lands, and whose outlook was 
purely religious. Neither Fa-hien^ nor secular matters, 

except very incidentally, nor do mention the name of 

the king or kings whose dominions were%isited by them. Hiuen 
Tsang is not so circumscribed, but gives some interesting infor- 
mation about his royal patron Harsha-vardhana and other contem- 
porary kings of India, He also briefly j’efers to the political con- 
dition of the kingdoms through which he passed, and devotes an 
entire chapter to a general account of India, These are, no doubt, 
very valuable, but they form only a very small part of his extensive 
records which, like those of Fa-hien and 'I-tsing, are otherwise 
devoted to a minute and detailed description of Buddhism in India 
— its rituals and practices, sanctuaries and memorials, sects and doc- 
trines, scriptures and traditions. 

The Chinese travellers have rendered a great service by depict- 
ing the state of Buddhism in India. But devout pilgrims as they 
were, their intense religious faith impaired to a certain extent their 

61 



THE VEDIC AGE 


rational instincts and power ^of impartial observation. We must 
therefore be on our guard against accepting as literally true all 
their statements, especially those which concern the Buddhist faith 
in any way, even when based on personal observation. Their judg- 
ment on men and things was warped, if not vitiated, by an absolute 
and implicit faith m the superiority of Buddhism, and the too inti- 
mate, if not exclusive, association with men and institutions con- 
nected with that religion. Buddhism alone loomed large in their 
eyes, everything else taking a subordinate and almost an insigni- 
ficant place. Such an attitude is hardly compatible with recording 
an account that may be regarded as strictly historical. 

From the eighth century A.D. India attracted the attention of 
the Arab writers. Apart from the account of the Arab merchants 
and sailors, the Indian borderland finds prominent mention in Arab 
historical chronicles on account of the political aggrandisement of 
that militant nation which culminated in the conquest of Sind early 
in the eighth century A.D. Two and a half centuries later the 
Ghaznavid Turks followed in the footsteps of the Arabs and carried 
the banner of Islam far into the interior of India. India now figured 
prominently in the Muslim chronicles. The best foreign account 
of India that this age produced was written by Abu Rlhan, better 
known as Alberuni, a contemporary of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. 
While the ruthless conqueror was harrying India by fire and sword, 
destroying and plundering its cities and temples, the great Arabic 
scholar engaged himself in studying the culture and civilization of 
the country. He learned Sanskrit and studied its different branches 
of literature. The bul^y volume which he wrote is in many res- 
pects the most rational and comprehensive account of India ever 
written by a foreigner until modern times. He is singularly free 
from religious enthusiasm, bordering on fanaticism, and the racial 
superiority-complex whijj||||park the Muslim writings of the age. 
He patiently laboured lfl|H acquire knowledge of Indian society 
and culture in a laudabie^^irit of quest for truth, and brought to 
his task a liberal and rational mind enriched by profound know- 
ledge, remarkable for his age. But from the point of view of Indian 
history, Alberuni’s great work, highly valuable though it is, suffers 
from two serious defects. In the first place, he says little or noth- 
ing of the political condition of India. Secondly, his account rests 
primarily on his study of Indian literature, and is not based on per 
sonal observations. In other words, he saw India, not with his own 
eyes, but through literary works. Alberuni gives an admirable 
survey of the mathematics, physics, chemistry, cosmogony, astro- 
nomy^ astrology, geography, philosophy, religious rites, customs, 
social ideas, etc., of India, but we feel at almost every step — and he 
does not conceal the fact — that he is merely reproducing what he 
read about these things in books written by Indian authors dead and 

62 



SOURCES OE" INDIAN HISTORY 


gone long ago, and draws little or no inspiration from the living 
India of his age. 


2. THE MEDIAEVAL PERIOD 

(THIRTEEINTH TO EIGHTEENTH CENTURY) 

Alberuni’s work closes a long series of accounts written by 
foreigners about ancient India. Two centuries later the Muslim 
Turks established their political supremacy over India, and intro- 
duced the art of compiling chronicles recording the political events 
of the country. The earliest work of this kind, TahaqdUi-N^siri 
by Minhaj-ud-din, composed in the middle of the thirteenth century 
A.D.. traces the history of Muslim rule in India ftom the very begin- 
ning with such fullness of detail as the author could deriye from a 
patient study of all the materials available to him. It was follow- 
ed by other works at regular intervals among which the following 
deserve special mention: Ta'rikh^l-Firuz Shdhi by Ziya-ud-din Barani 
and Shams-i-Siraj ‘Aflf; Gulshan-i-lhrdhiml by Muhammad Qasim 
Firishta; AinA-Akbari and Akbar-nama by Abul-Fazl, Tabaqdt-i- 
Akbarl by Nizam-ud-din Ahmad, and Muntcikhab-ut-Tawdrikh by 
‘Abd-ul-Qadir Budaunl. * 

There are besides a number of other works dealing with general 
history as well as provincial states or particular individuals. A 
fair idea of the nature and extent of these works may be had from 
that excellent compendium — The History of India as told by its 
own Historians — compiled by Elliot and Dowson, in which an 
attempt has been made to cover the history of the whole period by 
extracts (in an English translation) from indigenous historical texts. 

The autobiographies of the Mughal emperors Babur and Jahan- 
gir, and the biographies of other emperors, kings, and various gran- 
dees form a valuable suppl«ment to historical works. A 

part of the official correspondence, botlsSHpe Central Government 
and of the various provinces and suboroWKie states, has also been 
preserved. 

Official despatches or the letters of military commanders, gov- 
ernors, and diplomatic agents are valuable sources of information, 
and often give accurate dates* and details not available from any 
other source. Mention may also be made, of court diaries and news- 
reports. These contain reports of the occurrences and sayings at 
the Public Durbars of Delhi and provincial courts which were taken 
down by men specially employed for the purpose by subordinate 
rulers or important officials. These form valuable materials for 
the reconstruction of the history of the period, and the monumental 
work Ain-i-Akban gives a most detailed and comprehensive picture 
of the complex administrative machinery set up by the great Mughal 
emperor. The bardic chronicles of the Rajputs form an important 

63 



THE VEDIC AGE 


class of historical documents concerning the Hindu states of Raj- 
put^a. It is unnecessary to dwell at length on these familiar 
sources of history, as they will be reviewed in detail in later parts 
of this work. 

The archaeological evidence of the period, highly valuable from 
the point of view of the history of art, ceases to be of as much special 
importance as in the ancient period for the purpose of political 
history. The coins of the early rulers with their dates and mint- 
marks, as well as inscriptions, often supply valuable additional 
information, particularly in respect of provincial history which is 
not so fully dealt with by the Court historians. But they are at 
best valuable supplements, and save in rare instances, not the sole 
or even principal sources of information.^ 

The accounts of foreign travellers are also an important, though 
supplementary, source for the history of this period. One of the 
earliest is Marco Polo who visited India and other parts of Asia 
towards the close of the thirteenth century A.D. He does not, how- 
ever, tell us much of the political history. The most important in 
this respect is Ibn Batuta, an African Muhammadan, who spent 
several years in the court of Muhammad Tughluq. He returned 
to his native country in A.D. 1349, after twenty-five years of travel, 
full of adventures, in various parts of Asia. He has left a vivid 
account of India of his time whose general accuracy there is no 
reason to dispute. Another important traveller was Nicolo de' 
Conti, the Venetian, in the fifteenth century. A number of other 
European travellers in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries have 
left interesting information about various parts of India, parti- 
cularly the powerful kingdom of Vijayanagar. For the Mughal 
period the voluminous writings of European travellers, including 
reports of Jesuit missionaries, and official despatches of the Portu- 
guese, French, and trading stttlements, supply a mass ol 

authentic information. ® 

For the second perW (A.D. 1200-1800), therefore, the histo- 
rian of India is no longer hampered by lack of material as in the 
first or earlier period. He can trace the main outline of the poli- 
tical history with essential, details, and has not to piece together frag- 
mentary data from coins and inscriptions by a tedious and laborious 
process. His principal difficulty is to sift the tnjith from a mass of 
data which sometimes contradict one another, and to assess correct- 
ly the statements of historians which are not infrequently coloured 
by passions and prejudices. But these are difficulties which are 
common to historians of all ages and countries. 

3. THE MODERN PERIOD 

It is unnecessary to say much on the materials for the history of 
the modern period, as they present no unusual features. It should 

64 



SOURCES OF INDIAN HISTORY 

be emphasized, however, that state-papers, i.e. contemporary official 
documents, now take the chief place ’'among these materials, as In 
the case of European countries. Such state-papers are not altogether 
wanting for the Mughal period, but they are, comparatively speak- 
ing, few in number and play a minor role in the construction of 
the history of the period. From the eighteenth "century they in- 
crease in volume and importance and the Peshwa’s Daftars may be 
cited as a striking example. With the establishment of the British 
ascendancy these state-papers form the most elaborate and valuable 
source of information. The servants of the East India Company 
in India had to keep very detailed written records of their transac- 
tions and deliberations for the perusal of their masters in England, 
and this fortunate circumstance has undoubtedly increased the mass 
of documents which supply abundant 'historical, material of first- 
rate importance. The correspondence of the v'arious Indian States 
among themselves and with the British is also very valuable. 
Tliese materials have been partially lost, but a great deal has been 
preserved and is now kept in the Imperial Records Office in Delhi 
and the India Office in London. The Records Office in Delhi has 
been recently reorganized, and proper arrangements have been 
made for making the records available to students of history and 
helping their study by means of classification, indexing, and printing 
select documents. Numbers of important state papers in Provin- 
cial Record Offices, Indian States, and in private ’possession are also 
gradually coming to light. These and other materials, to which 
detailed reference will be made in due course, have considerably 
facilitated the task of the historian of modern India. 


65 



CHAPTER m 


GENERAL REVIEW OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL 
EXPLORATIONS AND EXCAVATIONS 

In every country the historian is dependent upon the archaeo- 
logist for information about periods to which written records do 
not go back. This particularly is the case in India, where practi- 
cally the entire history of the pre-Muslim period is built up on the 
study of materials recovered by the investigator and excavator 
during the last century and a half. The splendid achievements of 
Indian culture throughout the ages were unfortunately not matched 
by a sense of historical and geographical accuracy, and except for 
the metrical chronicle of Kashmir, no other sober history is available 
for the whole sub-continent. The Muslim period witnessed a mark- 
ed interest in the recording of contemporary history, and occasional- 
ly an exceptional monarch such as Firuz Shah Tughluq (1351-1388) 
6ven made an attempt to explore and preserve ancient relics such 
as the inscribed pillars of Asoka, but without any tangible result. 
The study of Indian antiquities was, however, initiated in Bengal 
soon after the establishment of British power by scholars like Sir 
William Jones, who founded the Asiatic Society of Bengal in 1784. 
At first, only linguistic and literary researches occupied the Society’s 
attention. With the turning of the century, a comprehensive sur- 
vey of the country was started under the orders of the East India 
Company, and Dr. Buchanan Hamilton was the first explorer who 
carried out this task first in Mysore and Southern India, and then 
in North Bengal, Bihar, and Assam, in the second decade of the 
nineteenth century. His report contains the earliest notices of 
Indian antiquities, ®re recorded with great accuracy and 

sound judgment. In w|||irn India the caves of Ajanta, Elephanta, 
and Kanheri were also discovered and described before the turn of 
the twenties. 

The labours of these pioneers brought to light a number of 
ancient inscriptions recorded on rocks and pillars, but these were 
written in a script which no one colild read. They thus remained 
a sealed book to scholars ' till their mystery was solved by James 
Prinsep in 1837. Prinsep, who was then Secretary of the Asiatic 
Society of Bengal, has left an interesting account of this great dis- 
covery. It is a romance of archaeology fit to rank by the side of 
the decipherment of the hieroglyphic and cuneiform scripts. For 
seven years, we are told, Prinsep spread before him, every morning, 
the estampages of the inscriptions collected from different parts of 
India and wistfully gazed at the unknown alphabets which con- 

66 



ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS AND EXCAVATIONS 

cealed the mystery of India’s past. At last the numerous short 
votive records on the famous stupa ,*at Sanchi gave him the key. 
How he hit upon it, almost by a lucky chance, may best be told in 
his own words, as recorded in Volume VI of the Journal of the 
Asiatic Society of Bengal (pp. 4'60-77, 566-609). 

“In laying open a discovery of this nature, little expla- 

nation is generally expected of the means by which it has been 
attained. Like most other inventions, when once found it appears 
extremely simple; and as in most others, accident, rather than study, 
has had the merit of solving the enigma which has so long baffled the 
learned. 

“While arranging and lithographing the numerous scraps of facsi- 
miles, for Plate XXVII [i e. the Sanchi inscriptions] I was struck at 
their all terminating with the same two* letters, i Coupling this 
circumstance with their extreme brevity and insulated position, 
which proved that they could not be fragments of a continuous text, 
it immediately occurred that they must record either obituar}^ 
notices, or more probably the offerings and presents of votaries, as 
is known to be the present custom in the Buddhist temples of Ava; 
where numerous dhwajas or flag-staffs, images and small chaityas 
are crowded within the enclosure' surrounding the chief cupola, 
each bearing the name of the donor. The next point noted was the 

frequent occurrence of the letter already. set down incontes- 

tably as s, before the final word: now this I had learnt from the 
Saurdsh^ra coins, deciphered only a day or two before, to be one 
sign of the genitive case singular, being the ssa of the Pali, or sya 
of the Sanscrit. ‘Of so and so the gift,’ must then be the form of 
each brief sentence; and the vowel d and anuswdra led to the speedy 
recognition of the word ddnam (gift) teaching me the very two letters, 
d and n, most different from the known forms, and which had foiled 
me most in my former attempts.* Since;t l| || | 4 also my acquaintance 
with ancient alphabets had become so fl&iiliar that most of the 
remaining letters in the present examples could be named at once 
on re-inspection. In the course of a few minutes I thus became 
possessed of the whole alphabet, which I tested by applying it to 
the inscription on the Delhi column.” 

Prinsep then applied, with success, the Sanchi alphabet, as he 
called it, to the Buddhist group of ancient coins and to other in- 
scriptions, particularly those on the Idts, meaning the Aiokan Edict 
columns, in Upper India, and gave an analysis of the alphabej:. 
Next, by the application of the alphabet to |j^ inscriptions on the 
celebrated Afiokan pillars at Delhi and Allahabad, he gave detailed 
readings and interpretations of these ifiscriptions. Thus was the 
master-key of the ancient Brahmi alphabet discovered. 

Prinsep’s great discovery ushered in a new era by lifting the 

67 



THE VEDIC AGE 


veil irom the earlier Indian inscriptions, and laid the foundation of 
research in Indian history an.i practically every branch of Indian 
archaeology. Hereafter it became possible to evaluate each dis- 
covery and assign it to its proper period by a systematic study of 
contemporary writings. Scholars like Fergusson, Cunningham, 
Dr. Bhau Daji,,'.Rnd JDr. Rajendra Lai Mitra handed on the torch 
lighted by Prinsep, and built up the foundations of our present 
knowledge of Indian architect\ire, Indian geography, Indian coins 
and other branches of Indology during the next generation. 

The first official step taken by the Government of India was 
the appointment of General Alexander Cunningham as Archaeolo- 
gical Surveyor to the Government in 1862. This was due to the 
initiative of Lord Canning, who for the first time realized that the 
British Government had a •duty towards India in rescuing from 
oblivion her splendid heritage of the past. The choice of so genuine 
a lover of Indian antiquities as General Cunningham for this pioneer 
work of exploration and research was very happy, and the record 
of his devoted labours for nearly half a century, extending over a 
vast field covering almost every branch of knowledge, is in many 
ways unique. Starting with the data supplied by the Greek his- 
torians and the Chinese travellers, he laid the foundations of an 
exact knowledge of ancient Indian geography by personal investiga- 
tions and an almost uncanny gift of spotting and identification of 
ancient sites. His unrivalled knowledge of Indian coins, 
particularly those of the north-west, laid the foundation of 
Indian numismatics, which still has to depend upon his published 
works in certain branches. Many of his speculations and conjectures 
may not have bear confirmed by subsequent research, but this can 
be excused in a pioneer who covered so much new ground in half 
a dozen different fields. Such digging as was attempted at places 
like Bodh Gaya, Bharhut, Sanchi, Sarnath, and Taxila cannot be 
considered as systematij^tecavatien, but we must remember that 
the science of archaeol<^y had not then developed anywhere else 
beyond quarrying for sensational finds. 

After Cunningham’s retirement followed a period of nearly 
fifteen years in which no clear archaeological policy was laid down 
or followed, although Dr. Burgess and his colleagues were able to 
publish excellent volumes on the results of the Surveys, mostly of 
Western Indian caves as also in Southern India. Provincial surveys 
on a very limited scale and without any central direction or support 
could accomplish little, but in the closing years of the last century. 
Lord Curzon, the '¥lj|g?oy of India, ushered in a new era for Indian 
archaeology. He acc^ted the encouragement of research and the 
promotion of archaeological study as a , duty and obligation which 
Government owed to this ancient country and established a Central 
Department of Archaeology. Thereafter, the course of archaeology 

68 



ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS AND EXCAVATIONS 

has been fairly continuous, though Siibject to periodic stimulation 
and depression. 

' 'ihe Department contained several keen and sound Sanskrit 
scholars of various nationautiefe, notably Dr. Vogel, Dr. Steih, 
Dr. Bioch, and afterwards Dr. Spooner, ail of whom^^ere very- mueh 
interested in archaeofogicaf exploration; but none of them had the 
benefit of taking actual part in tne work of excavation as Dr. Marshall 
(afterwards Sir John)^ the newly 'Appointed Director General of 
Archaeology, had m Greece before his appointment. His direction 
and guidance soon proved to be of the greatest benefit to Indian 
archaeology, and not only did the European officers of the Depart- 
ment hereafter take a share in the work of excavation, but young 
Indian probationers were enlisted for graining as they were even- 
tually to replace scholars from abroad. In the first few years 
(1903-12) the programme of excavation largely centred round such 
iainous Buddhist sites as Sanchi, Sarnath, Kasia .;,(Kusinagara) and 
Sahet Mahet (Sravasti). City-sites like Charsadda (Pushkalavati) near 
Mardan, Bhita near Allahabad, Basarh (Vaisali) near Muzaffarpur, 
and liajgir the ancient capital of Magadha, were also touched but 
not persisted in, although they yieljied sufficient finds of great im- 
portance for the reconstruction of cultural history. The reason for 
this, as explained by Sir John Marshall himself, was that the re- 
searches of the earlier generation of archaeologists had thrown 
more light on Buddhist antiquities, and besides there was a greater 
chance of making some spectacular finds in the Buddhist sites than 
in the more extensive city -sites where it is difficult to locate spots 
of special importance. Buddhist sites, generally clustered around 
lofty stupas and readily recognizable from their configuration, are 
certainly easier to excavate and there is greater probability of making 
such sensational finds as, for example, the relics of the Buddha 
enshrined by Kanishka in the^tiipp near Pi|shawar city. At Sarnath, 
the famous lion capital of an Asokan pilla#land the great sculptural 
wealth of the Gupta empire were among the sensational discoveries 
made. 

The idea of bringing to light the successive cultural periods of 
Indian history by regular excavations at city-sites was entertained 
about 1912, when Sir John Marshall took up his work at Taxila 
which was to continue for over two decades. At Pa(aliputra (Patna) 
Dr. Spooner began in 1913 his examination of the ancient Mauryan 
capital which was to continue for a number of years, thanks to' the 
liberality of Sir Ratan Tata who provided the jptire funds. Urf 
fortunately the latter site, being waterlogged ifeiifburied deep under 
alluvium, did not yield proportionately. large results. Strangely 
enough, some of the most striking finds came from the lower levds 
exposed in the course of sewage operations arid foundations of 
mddberri buildings. Tile excavations at Taxila, ori the bther hahd, 

V.A.— B 



THE VEDIC AGE 


h^ve yielded steadily growing material which has fulfilled the 
expectations raised by a city-site situated on the main highway 
from the north-west, forming, as it were, the crucible in which 
Indian culture was blended with 'that of other races coming from 
that direction the three or four centuries on either side of 

the Christian era. The most comprehensive operations ever carried 
out at any single site in India are those at Taxila, where about a 
dozen sites have been excavatSd within an area of some 25 square 
miles, embracing three separate cities and half a dozen large Buddhist 
establishments. The earliest city going back to the Mauryan period 
is that under the Bhir mound, which was superseded by the second 
and most important city at the site of Sirkap, founded by the Indo- 
Greek rulers and inhabited during the Indo-Greek and the Saka 
periods. The weklth of finds, mainly from the second city, that 
enriches the museum established on the site makes it the most 
attractive archaeological collection in the country. 

While the lay-out of the Mauryan city was irregular and the 
construction unimpressive, the second town, with its regularly ar- 
ranged streets and lanes and well-built houses with spacious rooms 
and courtyards, is one of the best preserved ancient cities, the relics 
found being among the most representative and valuable dug out 
anywhere in India. Among the religious sites at Taxila the most 
prominent and extensive is the Dharmarajika stupa, said to have 
been founded by the great Asoka and built over during successive 
ages and surrounded by scores of smaller stupas, chapels, and large 
monasteries. Some of the retreats for the Buddhist monks perched 
on the neighbouring hiUocks, such as those at Jaulian, Kalawan, 
and Mohra Moradu, provide ample evidence of the flourishing state 
of Buddhism in the palmy days of Taxila, which came to an end 
at the close of the fifth century A.D. with the invasions of the 
Hu^ hordes. . * 

World War I interlfed with the progress of exploration, as it 
was not possible for the Government to spare funds for scientific 
research. However, the Royal Asiatic Society of London sanctioned 
a small grant for the excavation of the great Buddhist site of 
Nalanda, and this enabled Dr. Spooner to commence work in 1917 
which continued unabated for nenrly two decades. Besides the 
complex of stupas, temples, and monasteries brought to light in the 
course of these excavations, Nalanda has yielded unique bronzes 
and sculptures of great artistic merit as well as inscriptions which 
*have thrown a 4l||»d of light on the history of Northern India and 
the development m buddhism in Eastern India. The main building 
here shows signs of havipg been enlarged and rebuilt no less than 
seven times, and some of the monasteries show at least three periods 
of occupation and reconstruction. Nilandi has been the main centre 
of archaeological work in Bihar since it was taken up nearly thirty 

70 



ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS AND EXCAVATIONS 

years ago. Rajgir ’ (ancient Bajag):iha^ has also yielded some re-* 
markable finds, notably from the site known as Maniyar Math, but 
no large-scale examination of this ancient city, one of the earliest 
historical capitals of India, has yet’ been attempted. 

An epoch-making discovery which changed fhe sojirse of Indian 
Archaeology and pushed back Indian antiquities from the Buddhist 
to prehistoric times was made in 1922-23 when Mr. R. D. Banerji, 
excavating the ruins of a Buddhist establishment at Mohenjo-daro 
in Sind, lighted upon certain inscribed seals with pictographic 
characters which were till then known only from the site of Hcirappa 
in the Punjab. The full significance of the discovery was not 
apparent till two years later, when a comparison of the finds from 
both the sites convinced Sir John Marshall that tl^ey belonged to a 
prehistoric civilization far earlier than any known so far. Although 
at first labelled Indo-Sumerian, owing to its obvious affinities with 
the Sumerian civilization of the third millenniiun B.C., the newly 
discovered civilization was subsequently renamed after the Indus 
Valley, as it was found to be its main habitat. The discoveries stimu- 
lated public interest in Indian Archaeology to an unprecedented 
degree, and the Government of Indiia began to finance liberally 
schemes of archaeological exploration and research in the different 
parts of India. For about seven years from 1924-25 the Government 
grant for exploration gradually rose until it reached the figure of 
two and a half lakhs which has been the high-water mark in this 
country. For this the discoveries at Mohenjo-daro are mainly res- 
ponsible, and under that name is epitomized the progress of Indian 
Archaeology during the last two decades. 

Preliminary excavations were carried on at a large number of 
sites in Sind and archaeological explorations were extended even 
to distant parts of Baluchistan (see Map 2). But these subsequent 
researches have failed to shed any considerable light on the manner 
in which this well-developed city civilization of the Indus Valley 
sprang up, as if from nowhere, and also about its equally inexplicable 
disappearance without leaving any considerable traces of its survival 
in the Indus Valley or its surrounding regions. Some seven epochs, 
either slightly earlier or slightly later than the main stream of 
culture presented by Harappa anR Mohenjo-daro, have been identi- 
fied, but all of them together do not help lo bridge the wide gulf 
between this chalcolithic civilization and that of the historic period 
which flourished in the upper and middle Gangetic basin from the 
middle of the first millennium B.C. This indeed is one of the most 
important tasks before Indian archaeology, and demands a great 
deal of patient and systematic .work over a. number of years. Field 
research of this type cannot be attempted by compartments but will 
require an all-India organization with ample resources at its back 
and co-operation of various regional units. 

71 



THE VEDIC AGE 


The initial success of the Archaeological Department of the 
Government of India induced many of the Indian States to open then- 
own Archaeological Departments. We shall now review the pdsition 
regarding exploration in each province and important state. In the 
provmce of^ind, which leaped into prominence with the Indus 
Valley discoveries, the record of archaeology is still very meagre, 
apart from the Indus Vallejo finds. Besides a few Buddhist stupas 
and monasteries, mostly assignable to the Gupta period as at Mirpur 
iChas, none of the remains can be assigned to a period earlier than 
the Arab invasion in the eighth century. One reason for this muse 
have been the gradual desiccation of the lower Indus Valley. The 
main interest of the province will therefore vest in the large number 
of sites of the prehistoric period, scattered over its western half, 
which have no^ yet been adequately explored. 

In the North-West Frontier Province the great Buddhist sites 
of Sahr-i-Bahlol, Takht-i-Bahi, and Jamalgarhi have yielded valuable 
treasures. They fill the local museum at Peshawar, which is natu- 
rally the most important for the Graeco-Buddhist school of Gan- 
dhara. The whole district of Peshawar teems with mounds which 
are being fast levelled by cultivators to the great detriment of 
science. 

In the Punjab, Harappa and Taxila have been the most im- 
portant centres' of archaeological works so far. The province, how- 
ever, possesses very interesting possibilities of exploration in the 
earlier phases of culture. The De Terra expedition, which came to 
study the Ice Age in Kashmir and the Punjab foot-hills, brought to 
light important palaeolithic industries in the Soan valley which con- 
stitute the earliest relics of the Stone Age in the north. The find 
of a small isolated site of the Indus period near Rupar in the Sutlej 
Valley, coupled with the presence of a number of mounds in the 
submontane region of Ambala, gives the hope that further interesting 
discoveries concerning the extension of the Indus Valley culture 
and its survival may be made in this region. 

Kashmir, the beautiful valley in the lap of the Himalayas, is the 
only part of India for which, as noted before, an indigenous written 
history is available for the pre-Muslim period. The task of identi- 
fication of the many historical plUces mentioned in Kalhana’s Chro- 
nicle fell to Sir Aurel Stein, who successfully accomplished it atid 
thereby laid the foundation of his world-wide fame as an explorer 
and archaeologist. When the Government of Kashmir opefied an 
Archaeological Department in 1922, it turned its atttotion to the 
ancient sites, and eventually some of these were excavated, the 
result being in most fiBses a confirmation of Stein’s painstaking 
examination of Kalhana. 

The most interesting remains discovered are those of a Buddhist 
settlement of Kushana period at Harwan (ancient Shadahradvlina) 

*72 



ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS AND EXCAVATIONS 

consisting of a stupa and monasteries on a hill slope with unique 
terra-cotta plaques ornamenting the, walifi. Ushkar or Huvishkapura ' 
was another early Buddhist site (nan^ed after the well-known 
Kushaj:ia emperor) where investigation brought to light an early 
stupa built in the eighth century. Other sites, where excavation 
was carried out are Parihaspur, Avantipur and. the** well-known 
Martand, all belonging to the periodT from sixth to ninth century A.D. 

The United Provinces, constituting throughout the historic 
period “the middle country” (Madhyadesa) or the heart of the Indian 
sub-continent, hold the key to the solution of many a problem con- 
cerning the development of Indian culture. The vestiges of human 
occupation from the earliest times to the present day can be recog- 
nized here in the shape of mounds representing such famous cities 
of old as Mathura, Varanasi, SravastI, Kaftsambl and Ahichchhatra. 
Mathura and its neighbourhood have yielded to the digger the 
largest number of sculptural treasures, but systematic excavations 
in the modern sense have not been attempted on a proper scale. 
The small antiquities from the ancient site of Kausambi, picked up 
by casual visitors, are more artistic and more numerous than those 
found anywhere else. 

It is by systematic work on the city mounds that Indian archaeo- 
logy can hope to lay the foundation of a more comprehensive 
knowledge of Indian antiquities. Such work was commenced at 
the site of Ahichchhatra in 1941-42 and continued for three seasons, 
with the object of separating and classifying the different strata of 
buildings and studying the finds associated with each cultural 
layer. As a result, the pottei'y. terra-cottas, and minor antiauities 
found in the excavation o^ the ancient cities of Northern India can 
now be assuredlv relegated to definite historic periods such as 
Maurya, iSuhga. Kushana, Gunta and Medieval, on the reliable basis 
of archaeological stratification instead of merely on grounds of 
style. One great desideratum to which attention has been drawn 
by critics from abroad is the absence of a properly classified corpus 
of Indian potterv through the ages. For this, ample material has 
now been collected from the Ahichchhatra excavation and from 
other regular excavations, though on a smaller scale, carried out at 
such sites as Rajghat (Benares), M^ithura, and one or two sites in 
the Punjab and north west. The continental nature of the civili- 
zation of North India makes it inevitable that in each of the main 
periods the standard form adopted by the craftsmen of the central 
parts should be the guide for other regions, no doubt with local 
variations. In certain special periods such as the Mauryan, when 
the Imperial influence radiated from the capital, it has been found 
that the special black glazed ware must ha^fe been centrally manu- 
factured and specimens exported to outlying districts. 

Apart from this the characteristic grey ware of the Suhga period, 

75 



THE VEDIC AGE 


the variety of forms prevalent in Kushana times, and the beautiful 
decorated pottery of the Guptas can now hardly be mistaken, al- 
though they may have been manufactured in places as distant from 
each other as the Punjab and Bengal. The value of the accurate 
dating’ of pottery, >vhich is the most abundant material found in 
surface explotSHions, has now been sufficiently realized, and this 
opens the way to a better approximation of the age of surface re- 
mains in the absence of such^ datable material as coins and inscrip- 
tions which are not always forthcoming. 

In Bengal archaeological excavation has added a new chapter 
to the cultural history of the province where relics of the pre- 
Muhammadan period were almost non-existent on the surface. This 
was at the great site of Paharpur in the Rajshahi district which 
took the best part of a decade to excavate and preserve. Here the 
most remarkable find is the gigantic Buddhist establishment con- 
sisting of a towering central temple rising in terraces and surrounded 
by a vast quadrangle of monastic cells. The plan of the temple 
showing a grand square cross with projections between the arms, 
and the scheme of decoration of the walls by rows of terra-cotta 
plaques interspersed by fine stone images, have thrown a flood of 
light on the early history of Jirt and architecture in Bengal. Some 
work has also been attempted at Mahasthana, the site of ancient 
Pun^ravardhana, and at Bangarh, ancient Ko^Ivarsha, two important 
cities of North Bengal. The latter work, conducted by the Univer- 
sity of Calcutta, constitutes the only attempt made by an Indian 
University in the field of excavation, which has been thrown open 
to non-official effort by virtue of an amendment of the Ancient 
Monument Preservation Act passed by the Central Legislature in 
1933. The casual removal of earth for erecting military establish- 
ments during World War II has brought to light many remains of 
ancient structures in the Mainamati Hill near Comilla. A preli- 
minary survey indicates that they are the remnants of Buddhist 
establishments comparable to those of Paharpur, but no systematic 
excavation has yet taken place in this region. 

In the provinces of Assam and Orissa the efforts of archaeolo- 
gists have so far been confined to the investigation of standing 
monuments and existing ruins. » 

The Central Provinces and Central India constitute the richest 
field for epigraphical discoveries, but no systematic excavation of 
ancient sites has so far been attempted in the Central Provinces. 

. In Central India good work has been carried on in Gwalior State 
where the remains of the ancient cities of Vidi^ (Besnagar), Pad- 
mavaff (Padma-Pawaya), and Ujjain have been excavated by the 
state archaeological department. The great site of Sanchl in Bhopal 
has been well excavated by Sir John Marshall. There is a great scope 
for, the detailed investigation of remains, both of the historic and 

74 



ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS AND EXCAVATIONS 

prehistoric periods, particularly in the basin of the Narmada river 
which has already yielded remains df palaeolithic and microlithic 
industries. • 

In Rajputana, the late Sir Aurel Stein’s examination of thp 
dried bed of Hakra (ancient Sarasvati) has brought to light a numbeir' 
of pre-historic sites in the Bikaner and particularly Bahawalpur 
States. Systematic excavation in Rajputana is confined to Jaipur whezte' 
the ancient sites of Bairat, Rairh, and Sambhar have yielded a lai^ 
number of antiquities, including hoards of punch-marked coins and 
terra-cotta figurines. Bairat has a unique circular temple of the 
Mauryan times, and Rairh appears to have been a flourishing metal- 
lurgical centre and trade mart. The most extensive site in Jaipur 
is the city of Nagar or Karkotnagar, now represented by extensive 
mounds recently taken up for excavatidh which, if carried through, 
is sure to shed light on the history of the Malava tribe whose capital 
it was. 

An important undertaking, recently initiated by the Archaeo- 
logical Department and now taken over by the Ancient History De- 
partment of the Deccan College Research Institute, Poona, is the 
expedition which has investigated the prehistoric remains in Gujarat. 
This expedition, undertaken at first* with a view to determine the 
relation of the paleolithic and neolithic remains found in the SSbar- 
matl valley by Bruce Foote, the pioneer of Indian prehistory, has 
succeeded in bringing to light at Langhnaj, near Mehsana, Baroda, 
State, skeleton remains in an advanced stage of calcination in asso- 
ciation with microlithic implements. The success of the expedition 
has induced help from the Tata Trust fund, and the further conti- 
nuance of the work by a non-official body like the Institute is thus 
assured. Minor excavations at various ancient sites such as Anhil- 
pur, Patan, Amreli, and Mul Dwaraka were carried out by the 
Archaeological Department of the Baroda State. 

In the Province of Bombay the prevalence of trap throughout 
the Maharashtra area accounts for the paucity of stratified accumu- 
lations at ancient sites. In portions of the Kamatak district of 
Bljapur recent examination of the surface has brought to light the 
existence of several strata going back to the pre-Mauryan age. Re- 
cent work at the ancient city of Kolhapur has also yielded conside- 
rable material of the Satavahana and Igter periods, incidentally 
throwing light on contacts with Rome. 

The most important centres of Satavahana power were in the 
Deccan, and it is there that we must look for further extensive evi» 
dence of culture in the Satavahana period. The Hyderabad Gov- 
ernment has conducted excavations in the ancient capital of Pai^han 
(Pratishthana) and more recently at Kondapur in the Bidar district. 
The latter site is a veritable mine of antiquities which include 
numerous specimens of all types such as terra-cotta and i^ucco 

75 



THE VEDIC AGE 


figurfeg, coins and medals numbering several thous.and, and pottery. 
Tile, material discovered here ^d at the great site of Maski has not 
yet been adequately studied, and it is essential that it should be 
properly published if its scientific^ value is to be enhanced. The 
Archaeological Department of the Hyderabad State, started in 1915, 
h^ recently taken up the programme of archaeological exploration 
and excavation, and it may be confidently hoped that its work will 
be commensurate with the great importance of the remains situat- 
ed in the dominions. 

Mysore led the way among Indian States in archaeological in- 
vestigation by starting a regular department over sixty years ago. 
At first the activities of the Department were concentrated on a 
survey of the epigraphic material in which the state abounds, and 
on which the history of the dynasties that ruled Mysore is almost 
wholly based. Latterly some attention has been devoted to the ex- 
cavation of ancient sites of which two have proved to be of very 
great value. The site of Chandravali near Chitaldrug was exca- 
vated in 1928 and shows several strata of occupation in which the 
Satavahana period seems to be most important. Brahmagiri, in the 
northernmost part of Mysore, shows not only the relics of the Maur- 
yan town of Isila, but also those of later historic periods, and, what 
is more, was founded on earlier settlements of microlithic age. 

In the Madras Presidency, the vast number of existing temples 
and inscriptions have absorbed the main attention of the Archaeo- 
logical Survey. Although the number of sites of every period are 
numerous, excavation has so far been attempted only in some of the 
Buddhist sites in the northern districts and the well-known pre- 
historic burials at Adichanallur in the extreme south. Of the Bud- 
dhist Sites the most important are those in the Krishna valley in 
which the local rulers of the Ikshvaku dynasty seem to have patro- 
nized art in a larger measure than an;^ of their predecessors. Many 
ancient monuments before the organization of the Archaeological 
Department, Such as the Amaravati stupa in the Guntur district, 
had already been wellnigh destroyed by villagers and other vandals 
and their sculptures distributed among different museums, includ- 
ing the British Museum. Recently the discovery of an important 
site at Nigarjunikoni^a has to some\ extent made up for the loss. 
Systemsttic excavation has brought to light another group of stupas 
and monasteries, arranged in a characteristic manner, which have 
yielded a vast number of sculptures and inscriptions. The site is 
beautifully situated in the Krishna valley and was anciently known 
as Sri-ParVata. A local museum has been built on the j^ot for 
housing the sculptures and architectural specimens unearthed. 
Some work was done recently at the site of Virampattanam, near 
Pondicherry, the seaport in which, as in many other south Indian 
sites^ evidences of commercial contacts with Rome during the 

76 



ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS AND EXCAVATIONS 

Imperial period axe abundaat. The problem of Megalithic burials in . 
South India is vast and complicated, aftid much damage has. already : 
been inflicted by ill-advised digging on the graves associated with 
stone circles, um burials, sarcophagi^ etc., which occur over exten- 
sive areas in Southern India. At Adichanallur a large number of 
antiquities, including iron swords, daggers, gold ^nd bronze diadem$, 
bronze vessels and animal figures, etc., were found, along with a 
large amount of red-and-black polishi^d pottery, forming the accom- 
paniments of the burials. 

The whole subject has now been assiduously studied and we can 
expect the results of these studies to throw light on the movement 
and settlement of different types of people in the Peninsula. The 
entire field of palaeolithic, neolithic, and megalithic as well as iron 
age cultures in Southern India is so vast, and transcends in interest 
investigations relating to the historic periods, that it is likely to 
form a major preoccupation for several years. The states of 
Southern India, including Travancore, Cochin, and Pudukottai, 
have each its own contribution to make to this subject, not to speak 
of the larger states of Hyderabad and Mysore. 

No account of the activities of Indian exploration can be com- 
plete without reference to the woi^c carried out in what may be 
called Greater India. The most brilliant work carried out by the 
late Sir Aurel Stein constitutes the greatest achievement that can 
fall to the lot of a single scholar and explorer.’ Sir Aurel Stein’s 
activities were spread over a very wide field, including Baluchistan, 
Iran, and the border lands of India. But his most famous explora- 
tions were conducted in Chinese Turkistan. In the course of the* 
several expeditions which Sir Aiirel Stein carried out for the Gov- 
ernment of India, he discovered numerous relics of the ancient civi- 
lization which developed in the region. These have been preserved 
in the dry sandy wastes and ^how the highly important part which 
India played in the Far East, and' the way in which Indian cultural 
influences were spread there. The state of preservation of the fresco 
naintings in the Buddhist temples, wooden, silk, and paper docu- 
ments, and oth^r perishable objects is remarkable. These objeet<?, 
recovered from Central Asia, h^ve been carefully* brought back and 
preserved in a specie! museum prated at New Delhi ’by the Govern- 
ment of India. ; 

' In Burma, which formed part '^of India till ten vears acti- 
vities were mostly confined to’ the centres of Prome, Pegu, ^ind 
Pa^an. Excavation has been generally confined to opening up smalj 
mounds lying abundance at these centres, particularly Pfome. 
rnarking the sites of old stfipcis or temples. The earliest finds gre 
those at Prome in which Tffdian influence is very prominent. Al- 
though Hinayana Buddhism and the P§li tradition have now acquired 
a great hold on Burmese Buddhism, it is clear that a large ptOpOiv ^ 

77 



THE VEDIC AGE 


tion of the earlier colonizers were followers of the Mahayana sect 
and the Brahmanical religion/ and it was not till a comparatively 
later period that the Hinayana triumphed over its rivals. Bilin- 
gual inscriptions from Prome show the language of the old Pyu 
inhabitants side by side with Sanskrit. At Pagan excavations have 
brought to light a number of finds belonging to the eleventh and 
twelfth centuries, when modem Burmese culture may be said to 
have originated. At this period Burma was subject to a great deal 
of influence from India, especially Bengal, in sculpture, painting, 
terra-cotta, and architecture. It has now been weU established 
that the planning and scheme of decoration of Burmese temples and 
pagodas is based on Indian prototypes developed in the alluvial 
plains of Northern India for centuries. 

In the Malay Peninsula- exploration work has not proceeded 
on a large scale, but whatever has been done shows a strong Indian 
influence in the beginning of cultural history. The existence of the 
great SrI-Vijaya Kingdom in Indonesia, and its paramount influence 
over the islands in the Netherlands Indies, has now been clearly 
established by researches. The great monuments in Java, belong- 
ing to the Brahmanical as well as Buddhist faiths, such as the Bara- 
budur, Chandi Sewu, and Chandi Lara-Jongnang amply demons- 
trate the extent of Indian culture. Lastly, reference may be made 
to the researches and explorations of the French archaeologists in 
Indo-China which have thrown a flood of light on Indian colonies 
of Champa (Annam), Kambuja (Cambodia), and Dvaravatl (Siam), 
and led to the discovery of such monuments as Angkor Vat and 
Angkor Thom of world-wide fame. 

In Ceylon there is yet a vast field for exploration and excava- 
tion, but work so far has been mainly confined to the ancient capi- 
tals of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. Originally European 
scholars were in charge of the work, but a properly trained Cey- 
lonese scholar has now been appointed Archaeological Commis- 
sioner. and he is resnonsible for the excellent work done at the 
hill site of Mihintale stuva which is reminiscent of S§nchT. Several 
of the religious sites at Anuradhaoura have received attention, but 
the vast remains of the ancient citv have not vet been tackled. A 
large number of smaller sites in the., south of the island have vet 
to be explored, specially for prehistoric remains in which Ceylon 
seems to be particularly rich, and a good beginning has been made 
in this direction by the Director of Museums in Ceylon. Of all 
countries bordering on India, Ceylon is the most intimately con- 
nected with her culture both in the prehistoric and historic periods, 
and it is but natural that research in both countries should go hand 
in hand in close co-operatidn. 

Afghanistan has in several periods of its history formed part 
of India, and some of its most striking remains, as at Hadda, testify 

78 



ARCHAEOLOGICAL EXPLORATIONS AND EXCAVATIONS 

to the influence of Buddhism in that country. Some of the most 
important contributions to early Indian Epigraphy and Numisma- 
tics were based on finds made in Afghanistan. Recently a French 
mission conducted a series of excavations at Begram and other 
places which have thrown considerable light on its Indian connec- 
tions. ’ . 

In conclusion it may be observed that while archaeological ex- 
ploration has been placed on a fairly strong foundation in this 
country and much has been achieved so far in bringing to light and 
interpreting first-rate material for the reconstruction of India’s 
ancient history, a good deal yet remains to be done, and it would 
require the unabated efforts of generations of properly equipped 
archaeologists to bring the task to a reasonable state of complete- 
ness. While interest in the subject should be progressively widened 
throughout the length and breadth of this country, it is necessary 
that proper co-ordination should be established and much more 
financial support assured. Above all it is essential that a strong 
centre should foster and guide the activities of workers throughout 
the country. Indian unity, as exemplified throughout its history, 
is all the more necessary in the study of India’s past, and any com- 
partmental treatment is bound to result in stagnation. Through 
the immensity and diversity of India there runs a thread of unity 
which must be kept in view in any attempt to organize work for 
the systematic investigation of the past, and it is hoped that this 
consideration will never be lost sight of. 


79 



CHAPTER IV 


THE GEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND OF 
INDIAN HISTORY 

It is a truism that the coursa of human history in a region is, 
in a considerable measure, shaped by its physical and geographical 
features, which, in turn, in the ultimate, are determined by the 
geological history the region has passed through in the dim vista 
of time. Five thousand to ten thousand years ago North India 
must have offered to the early settlers from Asia, whatever race they 
belonged to, or from, wherever they came, a congenial habitat, in 
pleasing contrast to the arid and inhospitable steppes of the Aralo- 
Gaspian region, or the rugged mountains of the Iran-Afghanistan- 
Turkistan plateau. This migration to a quite new physical environ- 
ment could not but have influenced and largely shaped the trend 
of history and civilization of the races involved. 

Gf the three natural physical divisions of India, as we shall see 
in the sequel, the part which was most suitable for human occupation 
and to function as the nursery of civilization is the great central tract 
of the Indo-Gangetic plains. Here were present all factors favour- 
able for life — climate, food-supply, water, and vegetation. This 
vast expanse of flat alluvial plains of high fertility, watered by a 
number of perennial rivers, deriving their fertilizing waters from 
the snows of the Himalayas, must have attracted hordes of migra- 
tory peoples in successive waves from many parts of Western and 
Central Asia. The great alluvial plains of India extending from 
Sind throu.gh northern Rajputana. Punjab, U.P., Bihar, and Bengal 
to Assam, an area of over 300,000 square., miles, must have offered, 
as the centuries passed by, an exceedingly delectable home to early 
man long before the earliest beginnings of recorded history. But 
the geological beginnings of the sub-continent of India, as we know 
it todav. date back to an antiquity of which it is difficult to give a 
concept save in terms of astronomical figures of years. 

Human history, proto-hi-story, and. archaeology begin where 
the last chapter of our planet’s geological history ends. Man’s 
existence on earth dates a long time behind the oldest known re- 
cords of authentic archaeology, but fragmentary documents of his 
life in various regions of the earth, of his slow progress in culture 
and industry, and the relics of his contemporary animals lie buried 
in the top layers of the earth’s crust — the strata of geology which 
form what has been called its Sub-Recent period. Thus the back- 
ground of the history of all human races on earth is this zone of 
strata in the upper crust or shell of the earth’s body, laid down in 

80 



THE GEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND . OF INDIAN HISTORY 

surface deposits, river valleys,, deltas, lake-basins, , glaciers^ etc. In 
these are preserved traces , of the eici&tence of man. and of the physi- 
cal and climatic conditions of the time; they are designated in 
general as the Pleistocene system, representing the last epoch of 
the third and latest division of geological time, the Cainozoic Era. 

A full account of the Pleistocene under, these heads is luckily 
preserved in India: it is of great value as linking up prehistory with 
the geological history of a large <6ection of southern Asia. It was 
this age that saw the completion of the main outlines and relief of 
the earth as we see it today — its seas and continents, mountains, 
plateaux, and plains; though climatically the world had yet to 
witness one of the greatest revolutions, viz. the gradual freezing 
of the northern regions culminating in what is known as the Tee 
Age. 


INDIA IN THE PLEISTOCENE PERIOD 

1. The Setting of the Stage for Early Man in India 

Pleistocene geological records found in India form an extensive 
and varied storehouse of materials for the last million years or so, 
immediately preceding the Recent and Sub-Recent epochs. They 
carry the human records forward to so late a date as the Neolithic 
(circa 10,000 years B.C). In terms of years the Pleistocene dates 
back, according to modern estimates, to one million to two million 
years. The formations enumerated below have an important bearing 
on man’s prehistory as they contain in them numerous documentary 
relics entombed in the form of his skeletal remains, his artifacts and 
otlier proofs of his handiwork, industry, and culture. . It is in. these 
that the key to the stages of human evolution might be found. 

The principal Pleistocene and Sub-Recent remains in India may 
be classified as follows:— 

j 

(i) Deposits of the loe Age in India: Glacials of Outer and 

■ Middle Himalayas. ■ 

(ii) The Indo-Gangetic alluvium, of the plains of Horth India. 

(hi) The older alluvium of the peninsular rivers; high-level 

river terraces of the Himalayan valleys. 

(iv Old Lake Deposit^ (Karewa Series) pf the Upper iJhelum 
Valley in Kashmir. 

(v) Cave Deposits: Human cave-dwellers and their anirnel 
contemporaries. 

(vi) Laterite Cap of the Peninsula: Loess and soil deposits; 

(vii) Changes in the river-systems and drainage of North 

■India. • . , - , 

(viii) The Desert 'of North' 'India: the growth nf desert 
-conditions. ■ ' ■ - - • • - • • ■ - 

• (ix) Late -Earth Movernents, volrjanoes and- earthquakes. 

» 8>1 



THE VEDIC AGS 


Interesting glaciological investigations have been made in the 
Kashmir Himalayas and in the Karakoram by a number of explo- 
rers and naturalists. The Central and Eastern Himalayas have not 
received the same attention. It is. however, well known that 
throughout these mountains grooved and pohshed rock-surfaces, 
produced by the scouring action of the glaciers, occur at elevations 
above 6,000 feet, whereas the present limit of Himalayan glaciers 
is 13,000 to 15,000 feet. Numerous lakes and rock-basins of Kash- 
mir, Ladakh, and Kumaon directly owe their origin to the action 
of glaciers now no longer existing. Four distinct phases of glacia- 
tion, separated by three inter-glacial intervals, have been recognized 
in Kashmir by their moraines. 

Whether India, south of the Himalayas, passed through an Ice 
Age has been a much-discussed subject. It must be understood, 
however, that the present zonal distribution of climate being assum- 
ed, we cannot look for the presence of ice even on the highlands 
of South India, because a refrigeration which can produce ice-caps 
in the latitudes of Europe would not be enough to depress the tem- 
peratures in India beyond that of the present temperate zones. But 
some indirect evidences of considerably lowered temperature are 
observed in the increased humiditj^ and a succession of cold pluvial 
periods having affected the distribution of several cold-loving species 
of animals and plants then living in India. This enables us to ex- 
plain the occurrence today of some Himalayan temperate flora and 
fauna in such isolated centres as Mt. Abu, Parasnath, in the Nilgiris 
and even in the mountains of Ceylon, and their absence throughout 
the intervening plains of India. 

Man was contemporaneous, in N. W. India probably, with the 
two later glacial advances, as some late discoveries tend to show. 
De Terra records the presence of implements worked by man in de- 
posits in the outer ranges of Kashmir and in the Soan valley, belong- 
ing approximately to the second Glacial. He correlates the 
European Chellean and Acheulian with the early Soan cultures and 
dates this as Mid-Pleistocene. 

2. The Indo~Gangetic Alluvium of the Plains of North India 

As noted above, by early Pleistocene time, the dominant 
features of India’s geography had taken shape, and the country had 
acquired almost its present form and its leading topography except 
that the land in front of the newly upheaved Himalayas formed a 
great longitudinal depression, complementary to the rising moun- 
tains, and parallel with them. This trough, at first occupied by 
salt-water lagoons, gradually freshened, and, receiving constant 
influx of detritus from the high ground above it, from hundreds of 
descending streams, began rapidly to be filled by the waste of the 
Himalayas. This long-continued vigorous sedimentation loading 

82 



THE GEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

a narrow, slowly sinking belt of country, the deposition of the debris 
keeping pace with the subsidence, ha^ given rise to the great Indian 
plains. The continuous upheaving of the mountains must have 
rejuvenated the streams, multiplying their sediment-depositing 
power. Thus these plains have come to acquire the simplest geo- 
logical structure, the alluvial filling a large structufal basin in the 
framework of India. 

The greater part of the Indo-Gangetic plains is built up of very 
late alluvial flood deposits of the rivers of the Indus-Ganges systems, 
borne down from the Himalayas and deposited at their foot. But 
most of this terrain became firm and dry enough to be habitable 
for man only some 5,000-7,000 years ago. Buried beneath this 
mantle of clay and sand are valuable geological records linking up 
the Deccan with the Himalaya system. Its geological structure, 
composition and history therefore possess no great interest though, 
humanly speaking, it is of the greatest economic as well as historical 
importance. It has no mineral resources, but its agricultural 
wealth and fresh underground water stored in the more porous and 
coarser strata, accessible by ordinary wells and tube-wells, are the 
highest economic asset of India. Though devoid of records other 
than those of the yesterday of geological time, these alluvial plains 
are the stage of the main drama of Indian history since the Aryan 
occupation. 

The area of these plains is 300,000 square miles, covering the 
most thickly populated and the most fertile part of India. The 
total thickness of the alluvium consisting of beds of clay, silt, and 
sand is not ascertained, for the deepest borings (for water down to 
about 2,000 feet) have not reached the bed-rock. There is a con- 
siderable amount of fiexure and dislocation at the north margin of 
the trough, where it passes into the zone of the parallel boundary 
faults at the foot of the Hiraalayas. This structural strain explains 
the well-known seismic instability of this part of India, it being 
the belt encompassing the epicentres of the majority of the known 
Indian earthquakes. Many of the river courses of the plains 
have undergone great alterations. These rivers are bringing enor- 
mous loads of silt from the mountains and, depositing it on their 
beds, raise them to, and even above, the level of the surrounding 
flat country through which the streams , flow in ever-shifting chan- 
nels. This has been the history of many of the rivers of the plains. 
The deltas of the large rivers were mostly constructed within pre- 
historic times, though their surface and outline have undergone 
material changes during the last few centuries. The Indus and 
Ganges deltas each cover about forty thousand square miles. 

The extensive alluvial tract of Gujarat on the west coast is of 
the same age as, though quite unrelated to, the Indo-Gangetio 
system. Its constitution shows that it is not wholly the work of 

83 



THE VEDIC AGE 


the rivers, but that hi its m«ihiiig the combhied. egency o£ river, 
..estuarine and marine coastal'depoeitions has operated. 

These ancient alluvial deposits are. of value in the study of 
.e,arly and. middle Pleistocene as they are cnaracterized by the pre- 
sence of some of the earliest undoubted traces of man’s existence 
in India, and fQrnish an easily accessible field to the student of early 
human culture in India. 

The alluvial plains of the* Narmada and Tapti are remarkable 
as lying in deep rock-basins at over 500 feet elevation above the 
. present beds of these rivers. Scattered in, the clay, sand, and 
gravel beds are bones of the buffalo, horse, bear, an extinct species 
of rhinoceros, hippopotamus, elephant, and crocodile. A chipped 
stone hatchet, fashioned out of quartzite rock, was discovered in 
.1872, buried in the steep face of a gravel terrace of the Narmada 
at a site eight miles north of Gadawara. This is the earliest pre- 
historic relic of man discovered in India and is regarded as of the 
pre-Chellean Age. This fact suggests the settlement of the Narmada 
.valley by an early palaeolithic race. Another valuable relic, also 
believed to be of genuine human workmansliip, was discovered in a 
terrace of the upper Godavari at a level of about twenty-five feet 
above the present bed of the river. It is a knife fashioned out of 
an agate flake, 2| inches long, the sharp cutting edge of which is 
blunted by long usage. From the association of human remains 
with large mammalia which differ from the existing Indian fauna 
in .some material respects, the age of these implements can be taken 
to be Lower Pleistocene. The distance in time of these animals 
from their present-day descendants gives us some measure of the 
antiquity of the human settlements on the Narmada and the Goda- 
vari. > 

Various alluvial deposits of the Jumna-Ganges rivers and their 
tributaries are somewhat newer in age and have been assigned an 
antiquity intermediate between the Narmada-Godavari beds and 
the Mid-Pleistocene, from the evidence of fossil-bones and the few 
artifacts that have been found in them. Lately signs of the exis- 
tence of palaeolithic man have also been obtained from the valleys 
of the Tungabhadra and the Orsang. Recent discoveries since 1935 
; in the valleys of the Scan (near Rav^alpindi) and in the Sabarmati 
of north Gujarat of interesting suites of stone tools, axes, scrapef^, 
and choppers also thrbw' light mi the length Of the epoch that inter- 
vened between the palaeolithic and the commencement of historic 
time. 

3. Human Cave-Dweller & of India: Their Animal Contemporaries 

" • But few caves of archaeological interest exist in India atfd out 

of these only one group has received the attention of palaeonto- 
“ legists and' been' .subjected to systematic exploration. ' The only 

!^«4 



THE GEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

ones that have been systematically iiavestigated and yielded data 
on Pleistocene cave life are the group of small caves (Billa Surgam) 
near Banganapalli in the Kurnool district. From the stalagmitic 
floor a large assemblage of bones has been dug out, belonging to a 
mixture of Recent and Sub-Recent species, viz/a monkey, a hyaena, 
several cats, bear, a small equus; mongoose, bat, squirrel, a shrew, 
rats, small deer, gazelle, wild boar, qlong with an extinct type of 
rhinoceros, wild boar, civet-tiger and giant pangolin. Palaeon- 
tologists have assigned to this fauna a horizon near to the Upper 
Pleistocene top of the Palaeolithic. Among the human implements 
found in the Billa Surgam caves are numerous bone tools, very 
few stone tools being so far recorded. These are referred to the 
middle or upper Palaeolithic. 

The Kurnool caves help to present a fragmentary picture of 
the land life that prevailed in India just prior to the time when man 
began to domesticate animals for his own use. This life bridges 
the gap between the end of the Siwalik, a period of maximum 
development of the higher mammalian species, and the beginning 
of the Neolithic, when man began to take to pastoral and agricul- 
tural pursuits. 

Since early Siwalik times there has been a more or less constant 
intercourse between East Africa, Arabia, Central Asia and India 
maintained by the migrations of herds of mammals. Pilgrim has 
stated that the magnificent assemblage of land mammals we witness 
in the later stages of the Siwaliks was not truly of indigenous Indian 
origin. According to him it is certain that it received large acces- 
sions by migration of the larger quadrupeds from Egypt, Arabia, 
Central Asia, and even from distant North America by way of 
land bridges across Alaska, Siberia, and Mongolia. 

There seems little doubt t^iat our races of domestic animals are 
the direct descendants of the post-Siwalik species through the 
greatly decimated population that inhabited the Kurnool caves and 
the basins of the Narmada and the Godavari. The Siwalik ancestry 
of the Indian camel and the buffalo is beyond any doubt, whilst the 
short-horned and humped cattle of India had as their progenitors 
the Bos prirnigenius of the Siwalik through Bos nomadicus of the 
Narmada age. With a varied and abundant animal population as 
their co-denizens in the fertile and well-watered plains of North 
India it is no wonder that early man in India was among the first to 
tame some of the more prized varieties for companionship and, 
domestic service. 

4. Laterite Cap of the Peninsula and Soil Deposits 

Among the geographical, geological, and geophysical factors 
which have influenced the course of history in India and governed 
the distribution of large bodies of population over its surface, the 

85 



THE VEDIC AGE 


peculiar formation, laterite, f.s of ^ importance. In many ways its 
influence was the opposite to that of the Indo-Gangetic alluvium, 
for whereas the country covered^ under this geological formation 
invited man's settlement and provided a hospitable base for sustain- 
ing life, the laterite rock terrains are generally soilless, comparative- 
ly sterile expanses of hard ground, difficult to till, and poor in sur- 
face and underground water, resources, and drove man to easier 
conditions of existence. 

5. Changes in the River Systems of North India during the Human 

Epoch 

The hydrography of North India for a considerable portion of 
the Pleistocene epoch was profoundly different from what we find 
today. Few changes in the physical geography of India during 
early historical times and in Sub-Recent age have been so well 
proved as the changes in the river-systems of northern India. 
Following the great geographical revolution of the later Tertiary 
ages the old drainage lines of northern India have been radically 
altered and a new drainage system superimposed. The number, 
volume, and direction of the majority of the units of this drainage 
bear evidences of these changes, which in some instances, amounted 
to a complete reversal of the direction of flow of a principal river 
such as the Ganges. 

The drainage pattern of Peninsular India is of great antiquity 
and has persisted more or less unchanged since the early Gond- 
wana era. On the other hand the northerly drainage of the Dec- 
can, flowing to the shores of the Himalayan Sea (the Tethys) in 
Gk)ndwana times, was completely disorganized in the beginning of 
the Tertiary, and subsequently during the late Tertiary and post 
Tertiary all its main lines were buried under the 200 mile wide 
belt of alluvial plains of the north from Sind to Manipur. The 
present valley system of northern India, one of the youngest hydro- 
graphic systems of the world, has inherited nothing from the old, 
it being an entirely superimposed drainage, with no relations what- 
ever to the old river-courses. 

6. The Great Prehistoric River Of Northern India 

Ample evidence is found on the subject of the common ances 
try of the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Indus rivers, their reversal 
and capture before attaining their present state which has influenc- 
ed the course of Indian history at many a turn and comer. It was 
the notable pre-historic river, named the “Siwalik river" by Pil- 
grim, that flowed from the head of the Sind gulf to the Punjab and 
thence along the foot of the embryonic Himalaya chains, through 
Simla and Nainital to Assam. Post-Siwalik earth movements in 
North-West Punjab brought about a dismemberment of this river 

86 



THE GEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

system into three subsidiary systemi^ (1) The present Indus from 
IMorth-West Hazara; (2j Tne liVe Punjab tributary rivers of the 
Indus: (3) The rivers belonging to the Ganges system which finally 
took a south-easterly course. 

The severed upper part of the Siwalik River became the modern 
Ganges, having in course of time captured the transversely running 
Jumna and converted it into its own affluent. The transverse 
Himalayan rivers, the Alaknanda, Karnali, Gandak, and Kosi, which 
are really amongst the oldest water-courses of North India, conti- 
nued to discharge their waters into this new river, irrespective of 
its ultimate destination, whether it was the Arabian Sea or Bay of 
Bengal. During Sub-Recent times some interchange took place 
between the easterly affluents of the Indus and the westerly tribu- 
taries of the Jumna by minor shifting of the water-shed, now to 
one side now to the other. There are both physical and historical 
grounds for the belief that the Jumna during early times discharged 
into the Indus system, through the now neglected bed of the Saras- 
vati river of Hindu tradition, its present course to Prayag being 
of late acquisition. 

The Punjab portion of the present Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas, 
and Sutlej have originated from the uplift of the topmost stage of 
the Siwalik system and subsequent to the severance of the Indus 
from the Ganges. The Potwar plateau-building movements could 
not but have rejuvenated the small rivulets of southern Punjab, 
which until now were discharging into the lower Indus; the vigorous 
head-erosion resulting from this impetus enabled them to capture, 
bit by bit, that portion of the Siwalik river which crossed the Pot- 
war on its westerly course to the Indus. Ultimately the head 
waters, joining up with the youthful torrents descending from the 
mountains, grew in volume till they formed the five important 
rivers of the province, having their sources in the snows of the 
Great Himalaya Range. The western portion of the broad but now 
deserted channel of the main river, after these mutilating opera- 
tions, has been occupied today by the puny, insignificant stream of the 
Soan, a river out of all harmony with its great basin in the enormous 

extent of the fluvialite deposits with which it is choked. 

» 

7 . The Deserts of Western India: The Rann of Cutch 

The origin of 40,000 square miles of the Rajputana desert with its 
curiously worn and sand-blasted topography is attributed, in the 
first instance, to a long continued and extreme degree of aridity ot 
the region combined with the sand-drifting action of the south-west 
monsoon winds, which sweep through Rajputana for several months 
of the year without precipitating any part of their contained moi- 
sture. A certain proportion of the desert sand is derived from the 
weathered debris of the rocky prominences of this tract, which are 

87 



THE VEDIC AGE 


subject to the great diurnal as well as seasonal alterations of tem- 
perature characteristic of all arid regions. The daily variation of 
heat and cold in some parts of Rajputana often amounts to 100 
degrees Fahr. in the course of a few hours. The seasonal alteration 
is greater. This leads to a mechanical disintegration of the rocks, 
producing an abundance of loose debris, which there is no chemical 
or organic action (humus) to convert into soil. 

The Rann oj Cutch . — Once an inlet of the Arabian Sea and now 
a saline marshy plain scarcely above sea-level, its sandy metal en- 
closing deep pockets of millions of tons of pure salt, the Rann of 
Cutch bears signs of late geological alterations of level caused by 
earth movements and owes its present condition to the geological 
process of the Pleistocene age. From November to March, the period 
of the north-west monsoon, the Rann is a barren tract of dry salt 
encrusted mud presenting aspects of inconceivable desolution. 
During the other half of the year it is flooded by waters of the rivers 
that are held back owing to the rise of the sea by the south-west 
monsoon gales. A very little depression of this tract would be 
enough to convert Kathiawar and Cutch into islands. On the other 
hand, if depression does not take place, the greater part of the surface 
of the Rann will be gradually raised by the silts brought by the 
river with each flood, and in course of time converted into an arable 
tract, above the reach of the sea, a continuation of the alluvial 
terrain of Gujarat. 

8. The Meteorological Influence of the Himalaya Mountains 

The Rajputana desert conditions have thus accentuated with 
time, the water action of its few streams being too feeble to transport 
to the sea the growing masses of sand. But that the Indian desert 
is not of greater extent, or that it shows no tendency to expand in 
girth is due to the meteorological influence exerted by the Himalaya 
range. It has protected northern India from the gradual desiccation 
that has overspread Central Asia from Khorasan in eastern Persia 
to Mongolia since early historic times, and the desert conditions 
that inevitably follow in the heart of a continent. 

9. Earthquakes and Volcanoes 

Earthquakes . — The Peninsula of India is a region of great geo- 
logical stability and is remarkably immune from seismic disturbances 
of any intensity. But in the extra-peninsular India the recorded 
earthquakes since even late historic times form a long catalogue of 
tragedies. It is a well-authenticated generalization that the majo- 
rity of Indian earthquakes, have originated from the great plains of 
India, or from their peripheral tracts. 

Of the great Indian earthquakes recorded in the last two cen- 
turies and of which some accounts can be traced, the best known are: 

88 



THE GEOLOGICAL'^ACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

Delhi, 1720; Calcutta, 1737; Eastern Bengal, 1762; Cutch, 1809; 
Kashmir, 1885; Bengal, 1885; Assam, ^ 1897 (one of the most disas- 
trous earthquakes recorded in world history); Kangra, 1905; North 
Bihar, 1934; Western Baluchistan, 1935. The area encompassed by 
these quakes is the zone of weakness and strain caused by tlie severe 
crumpling of the Himalayas within recent times. The structurally 
disturbed and displaced belt has not yet attained stability of quie- 
scence. It falls within the great earthquake belt which traverses 
the circumference of the earth east to west, from Japan through the 
whole breadth of Eurasia across the Atlantic and the North Ame- 
rican continent to California. 

Volcanoes , — There are no living or active volcanoes anywhere 
in the Indian region today. A recently extinct volcano lies far on 
the west border of India in the Nushki desert of Baluchistan — ^the 
large extinct crater of Kohi Sultan. The Malay line of living 
volcanoes — the Sunda Chain — some of the most active volcanoes of 
the recent age, if prolonged to the north, would connect a few dor- 
mant or lately extinct volcanoes belonging to this region. Of these 
the most important is the now dormant volcano of Barren Island, 
to the east of the Andaman island group. The last time it was 
observed to be in eruption was earty in the nineteenth century. 

10. Late 'Earth^Movements and Local Alterations of Level 

Though movements of the mountain-building kind have not 
visited the peninsular part of India for an immense length of geolo- 
gical time, there have been a few late vertical movements of secular 
upheaval and depression, some of these of considerable amplitude, 
involving uplift or sinking of large crust-blocks, while others were 
of minor or local type. Of these, the later minor alterations of 
level recorded within the Pleistocene concern us here. Within these 
times an appreciable elevatiifn of the peninsula, exposing portions 
of the submerged coastal plains as a shelf or platform round its east 
as well as west coasts, is the most notable. Such ‘‘raised beaches” 
are found at altitudes varying from a few feet to 150 feet in many 
places on the Malabar and Coromandel coasts, while marine shells 
are found at several places some distance inland far above the level 
of the tides. Marine and esttiarine deposits of post-Teritary age 
are met with on a large scale towards the* southern extremity of the 
Deccan. Besides these evidences of a rather prominent uplift of 
the peninsula, there are also proofs of minor, more local alterations 
of level, both elevation and depression. The existence of beds df 
lignite and peat in the Ganges delta, the submerged forest discovered 
on the east coast of the island of Bombay and peat deposits near 
Pondicherry are proofs of slow downward movement. Evidences of 
upheaval are seen in some coral reefs along the coasts, low-level 

89 



THE VEDIC AGE 


raised beaches on various parts of the Ghats, and recent marine 
accumulations above tide level. 

The submerged forest of Bombay is nearly twelve feet below 
low- water mark and thirty feet below high water; here a number 
of tree stumps are seen with their roots in situ, in the old soil. On 
the Tinnevelly coast a similar forest or fragment of old land surface 
is seen slightly below high-water nlark. At Pondicherry, 240 feet 
below ground-level, a thick bed of lignite is found, while in the 
Ganges delta layers of carbonized vegetable debris occur. About 
twenty miles from the coast of Mekran the sea deepens suddenly 
to a great hollow. This is thought to be due to the submergence of 
a cliff formerly lying on the coast. The recent subsidence, in 1819, 
of the western border of the Rann of Cutch under the sea, accom- 
panied by the elevation of a large tract of land (the Allahhund), 
is the most striking event of its kind recorded in India and was 
witnessed by the whole population of the country. Here a tract of 
land, some 2,000 square miles in area, was suddenly depressed to a 
depth of twelve to fifteen feet, and the whole tract converted into 
an inland sea. The fort of Sindree, which stood on the shores, the 
scene of many a battle recorded in history, was also submerged 
underneath the waters, and only si single turret of that fort remained, 
for many years, exposed above the sea. As an accompaniment 
of the same movements, another area of about 600 square miles was 
simultaneously elevkted several feet above the plains, into a mound 
which was appropriately designated by the people ‘^Allahbund” 
meaning ^‘built by God.” The elevated tract of land known as the 
Madhupur jungle near Dacca is believed to have upheaved as much 
as 100 feet in quite recent times. This upheaval caused the de- 
flection of the Brahmaputra river eastward into Sylhet, away from 
the Ganges valley. Since this change the Brahmaputra has again 
changed its course to the west. 

In the foregoing account of the later geological deposits of India 
there is everywhere a gradual passage from the Pleistocene to the 
Sub-Recent and thence to the prehistoric and the Recent. These 
periods overlap each other much as do the periods of human histor 5 ^ 
and there is no general agreement as to the exact limits of each. 


90 



CHAPTER V 


THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF 
INDIAN HISTORY 

I. PHYSICAL FEATURES 

India is a vast country well marked off from the rest of Asia 
by its mountain wall on the north, north-east, and north-west, and 
the sea on the remaining sides. Roughly speaking, the territory 
comprised within it is about 2,500 miles from east to west and 2,000 
miles from north to south, with an approximate area of 1,800,000 
sq. miles. It has 6,000 miles of land-frontier and 5,000 miles of 
sea-frontier. 

Looking broadly at the physical features of the country we can 
easily distinguish three main parts, viz. (1) the great mountain wall; 
(2) the great lowland plain of Hindusthan; and (3) the great Deccan 
plateau. 

1 . The Great Mountain Wall , 

The Himalayas which run in a south-east curve all along the 
northern front of India, and separate it from the plateau of Tibet, 
include several parallel ranges of lofty mountains, with deep valleys 
between them. They cover a region about 1,500 miles long and 
150 to 200 miles in breadth. The Himalayas contain altogether 
about 114 peaks of over 20,000 feet, of which 75 exceed 24,000 feet. 
The best known are Everest or Gauri Sankar (29,140 feet), the 
highest mountain in the world, Kanchanjangha (28,176 feet), Dhau- 
lagiri (26,826 feet), Nanga Parbat (26,620 feet) and Nanda Devi 
(25,661 feet). . 

The Hindu Kush mountains which run from the Pamirs in a 
south-westerly direction may be regarded as the natural boundary 
of India in the north-west, though considerable portions of the 
hilly regions to the south and east are now included in Afghanistan. 
Further south, the Safed Koh, Sulaiman and Khirthar mountains 
are now generally regarded as the north-western boundary of India, 
separating it from the Tableland of Iran. But large stretches of 
land to the west of this line in modern Afghanistan and Baluchistan, 
like those to the south and east of the Hindu Kush, were for long 
both culturally and politically parts of India. 

Running roughly southwards from the eastern end of tlie 
Himalayas are a series of ranges which form the mountain wall 
separating India from Burma. In the morth are the Patkoi Hills 
which broaden into the Naga Hills and the Manipur Plateau and 
send out a branch westwards forming the KhasI, Garo and Jaintia 

91 



THE VEDIC AGE 


hills. South of Manipur are the Lushai and Chin Hills, which nar- 
row into a long single range, the Arakan Yoma, which reaches the 
sea at Cape Negrais. 

These mountainous regions contain some high plateaus and 
valleys. Beginning from the west we have the plateaus of Balu- 
chistan and Afghanistan which may be regarded as the continuation 
of the great plateau of Iran. 

In these and the neighbouring hilly regions there are many 
secluded valleys which have been the home of sturdy tribes from 
time immemorial. They converted their high hills into so many 
impregnable citadels and maintained their independence even against 
powerful foes. The detailed accounts which we possess of the brave 
resistance which these small communities put up against such world- 
conquerors as Alexander or the Arabs form a brilliant chapter in 
the heroic annals of India. 

Coming next to the Himalayan region we have the famous 
Kashmir Plateau, one of the most beautiful in the whole world. The 
green valley, at an elevation of 6,000 feet, is about 80 miles long 
and 25 miles broad. It is watered by the Jhelum river and is sur- 
rounded by snowy mountains 18,000 feet high. It has been justly 
regarded as ‘‘the earthly paradise.” 

Further east lies Nepal, stretching for 500 miles along the 
Himalayan region proper, which is above 5,000 feet, and the sub- 
Himalayan region below that height. The latter may again be sub- 
divided into two parts. The part near the Gangetic plain, known 
as the Terai, is very low and covered with marshes and coarse tall 
grass. The part near the mountains is covered with forest. Both 
are damp and unhealthy. The Nepal valley proper covers a small 
area round its capital Katmandu. It lies between the basins of the 
Gandak and Kosi and is watered by the Baghmatl river. It is a 
rich fertile plain surrounded by high hills and although only about 
25 miles long and 14 miles wide, nearly a quarter of all the inha- 
bitants of Nepal live in this valley. 

The hilly regions of the east contain the plateau on which 
Shillong is situated. It juts westward from the main hills and 
separates the valley of the Brahmaputra on the north from that of 
the Surma on the south. The main hill ranges running north to 
south contain small plains like those of Manipur. 

The plateaus mentioned above have been, generally speaking, 
detached from the currents of life' in the country proper. The 
history of Kashmir, Nepid, and Assam forms, therefore, almost 
isolat^ chapters in the history of India, and only very rarely comes 
into contact with it. Afghanistan, being on the main highway 
between India and the world outside, has however, played a more 
important part than would otherwise have been the case. 

The mountains form an admirable defensive rampart of India 

9 ?. 



THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

against invasion by land. The Himalayas present a formidable 
barrier to an army, though small bodies of traders and missionaries 
can pass over it through difi^cult routes. The mountains in the 
north-east, though not an equally effective barrier, have for all 
practical purposes served India well. They are so steep* and so 
densely forest-covered that to cross them is* a task of abnormal 
difficulty, and no considerable body of foreigners is known to have 
passed through this route to the interior of the country. 

The mountains in the north-west, however, have proved to be 
more vulnerable. There are several passes across the Hindu Kush 
and along almost all the chief rivers in this region, viz. the Swat 
and the Chitral running south, and the Kabul, the Kurram, the 
Tochi and the Gomal, running east to the Indus. But by far the 
most important route is the one that crosses the Hjndu Kush through 
one of its passes, runs along the Kabul valley, and then descends to 
Peshawar through the Khyber Pass, a winding and narrow defile 
about 20 miles long. 

Another well-known route runs, beyond the fringe of the 
Afghan mountains, from Herat to Kandahar, and then descends to 
the Indus valley through the Bolan Pass or the Mula Pass further 
south. » 

The third well-known route from the west followed the coast- 
line and reached the Indus valley through the narrow gap between 
the Khirthar range and the sea. But the inhospitable Makran 
coast made this route far less frequented than would otherwise have 
been the case. 

The two routes last mentioned were less important as gateways 
to India than the first. For just beyond the region where they 
debouch into the Indian plain stretches the great desert of Raj- 
putana, which bars access to the interior of India. The Khyber 
route, on the other hand, le^ids directly across the plains of the 
Punjab to the interior through the narrow gap between the desert 
and the mountains. Hence the northern route has been more fre- 
quently used by the foreign invaders of India. This explains the 
strategical position of the Khyber pass as the first line of defence, 
and that of the narrow plains to the west of the Jumna, above Delhi, 
as the second. 

Thus although the mountains around India have not definitely 
shut it off from the rest of Asia, they have made even peaceful com- 
munication with the neighbouring countries a difficult process. 
Further, they have proved an almost insurmountable barrier against 
foreign invasion except through the Khyber Pass, which has been 
in all ages the gateway of India, and the key of its security from 
foreign aggression. 

The Himalayas have not only served as a great barrier against 
outside intruders, but have also otherwise contributed to the welfare 

93 



THE VEDIC AGE 


of India. By protecting her against the cold dry winds from Tibet, 
and serving as a great screen, for the monsoon winds, they have 
increased the fertility and prosperity of the Indo-Gangetic plains. 
The numerous rivers fed by the glaciers of the Himalayas have served 
the same end. Some of these rise behind the Himalayas, in a valley 
which forms part of the Tableland of Tibet. In the centre of this 
valley lies the lake Manasasarovara (Manasarowar) , and near it 
rises the lofty mountain Kaila!?:a, both famous in Indian mythology. 
Close to this spot, at a height of 16,000 feet, are the sources of the 
Indus and the Brahmaputra which run for a considerable distance, 
respectively, towards the west and the east, before they skirt round 
the edge of the Himalayas and take a southern bend to enter into 
the Indian plains. The great Himalayan ranges are thus held 
‘‘within the arms of the two mighty rivers whose southern bends 
form the western and eastern limits of the greatest mountain ranges 
in the world.” 

2. The Plain of Hindustan 

Within the mountain-wall described above, and stretching from 
the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal in a great curve, lies the great 
plain of Hindustan, nearly 2,000 miles long and 150 to 200 miles 
broad. It is formed by the basins of the three great rivers, the 
Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, and their various affluents 
and tributaries. Not a hill is to be seen in this vast area. The 
great rivers all rise in the Himalayas and are supplied perennially 
from the gradual melting of the snow and the rains on the hills. 
Many of these rivers wind through small shallow rocky beds in 
the hills for a considerable distance, but as soon as they reach the 
plains their course becomes slow over the flat valley, their beds 
are broadened, and not infrequently these are shifted, often over a 
considerable distance. 

These rivers play a very important part in the life of the people. 
Carrying sediment from the hills they have formed alluvial delta, 
often of considerable extent. Their perennial supply of water is an 
inexhaustible source of irrigation. Their long lazy courses through 
broad valleys have not only made the lands fertile but have provided 
good highways of communication. In consequence of all these, 
highly developed centres of culture and civilization have flourished 
on the banks of these rivers from remote antiquity. 

The two principal river-systems are those of the Indus and the 
Ganges. The Indus rising in the Tibetan plateau runs west and 
north-west for nearly 800 miles between the great Karakoram range 
and the Himalayas. Passing through a tremendous gorge beyond 
Skarda it is joined by the^-Gilgit river and turning south cuts its 
way through the mountains to the Plains. Five rivers, all originating 
from the Himalayas, and winding through the hills, reach the plains 

94 



THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

and eventually join to form the Panchanad (five rivers) or Punjab. 
These are, from west to east, the Jh«lum, the Chenab, the Ravi, 
the Beas, and the Sutlej. They have changed their courses even in 
historic times, and the last two formerly ran in parallel beds for 
a long distance below their present junction. These five’ rivers’ 
combined, ultimately join the Indus. The Punjab province, covered 
by them, is a broad flat alluvial plain. 

On leaving the Punjab plain the j[ndus flows through a narrow 
rocky gorge into a broad dry alluvial plain bounded by the Plateau 
of Baluchistan on the west and the great Thar desert in the east. 
The region of the lower Indus valley — the modern province of 
Sind — would have been a desert but for this river which irrigates 
and renders fertile a considerable portion of territory on both sides 
of it. The Indus is to Sind what the Nile is to Egjypt. 

The Ganges issues from the Himalayas and has the character 
of a mountain torrent until it reaches Hardwar. It then runs, first 
from north-west to south-east, then almost due east, and finally takes 
a southern course before it reaches the sea. Its most important tri- 
butary is the Jumna on the west which, after a long parallel course, 
joins it near Allahabad. The tract between the two rivers is called 
the Ganges- Jumna Dofib. Some of the rivers issuing from the hills 
of the Central Indian plateau, such as the Chambal, the Kali Sindh, 
the Betwa and the Ken fall into the Jumna, while the Son, further 
east, falls into the Ganges. On the north the Ganges is fed by im- 
portant tributaries issuing from the Himalayas, the chief among 
which are the Gumti, the Gogra. the Gandak and the Kosi. The 
Ganges falls into the sea through several mouths. The most im- 
portant in ancient times was the westernmost called the BhagirathI 
(the Hooghly), on which stand Murshidabad, Hooghly, and Cal- 
cutta. We can still trace some of its old beds like the Saraswati 
which was dried up in the 16th or 17th century. At present the 
main waters of the Ganges flow through the Padma, the eastern- 
most mouth. 

The mighty Brahmaputra,. as noted above, has its source near 
the eastern base of the Kailasa mountain. Under its Tibetan name 
of Tsan-po, it runs east for nearly 700 miles till it bends southwards 
and enters Indian territory under the name of Dihang near Sadiya. 
It is then joined by the Dibang and the Luhit, and the united stream 
takes the name of Brahmaputra. In old days it was known as Lau- 
hitya, the trace of which evidently survives in Luhit. The Brah- 
maputra ‘‘rolls in a vast sheet of water, broken by numerous islands” 
through a narrow valley, about 500 miles long and 50 miles wide,* 
shut in between the Himalayas in the north and the Assam hills 
in the south. It then passes through the plains of Bengal and 
joins the easternmost mouth of the Ganges, viz. the Padma. Before 
the combined waters of the two fall into the sea. they are joined 


95 



THE VEDIC AGE 


by other rivers from the eastern watershed between Bengal and 
Burma through the channels^of the Meghna, another mighty river. 
As a matter of fact, the last part of the course of these united rivers 
is now popularly known as Meghna. The Ganges-Brahmaputra Doab 
and the deltas formed by them constitute the rich fertile province 
of Bengal. 

3. The Plateau 

To the south of the plain of Hindustan lies the great plateau 
which stretches over the whole of Peninsular India, except the coast- 
strips, up to its southern extremity. The plateau is divided into 
two important sections by ranges of mountains, which run across 
almost its whole breadth from east to west. These are the two 
parallel lines of hills, the Vindhyas in the north and the Satpura 
mountains, a little to the south, which are continued eastwards as 
Mahadeo hills and Maikal range, and pass into Chota Nagpur Plateau. 
Tlie Vindhya and Satpura mountains are separated by a narrow 
valley through which flows the great Narmada (Narbada) river. 
These hills with other outlying spurs and ranges constitute what 
may be called the Central Highlands, a formidable barrier which 
cuts off Northern India from the Deccan. The portion of the plateau 
north of the Central belt of mountains is known as the Central 
Indian plateau, and that to its south, the Deccan plateau. 

(a) The Deccan Plateau . — The surface of the Deccan plateau 
slopes down from the west to the east. The western edge of the 
tableland forms a high precipice above the sea and is known as 
the Western Ghats, with a narrow plain between it and the sea. 
On the eastern edge, which is much lower, are the Eastern Ghats, 
consisting of groups of low hills separated by wide gaps, through 
which the great rivers from the north and the west flow down to the 
coastal plain and then to the sea. As we go southward the hills gradu- 
ally recede from the sea leaving a coastal plain from 100 to 150 
miles wide towards the east. Ultimately they take a sharp bend to 
the west and join the Western Ghats -at the Nilgiris. 

The crest of the Western Ghats, exceeding 3,000 feet in height, 
forms a sort of protective barrier to the plateau which is conse- 
quently dry. The Western Ghats are about 1,000 miles in length 
and throw out many spurs in the east across the Deccan plateau. 
The plateau is higher in the south, being about 2,000 feet in the 
region of Mysore and half that height in Hyderabad. The southern 
point of the plateau is formed by the Nilgiri Hills where the Eastern 
and Western Ghats meet. Beyond it are the Cardamom Hills which 
may be regarded as the continuation of the Western Ghats. 

Two major rivers in the Central Highlands, the Narmada and 
the Tapti, immediately to the north and south of the Satpura range, 
flow from east to west. The rivers in Peninsular India, however, 

96 



THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

run from west to east. Many of them rise in the Western Ghats, 
only a few miles from the western sea-coast, but traverse the whole 
breadth of the plateau and cut ^ their way through the Eastern 
Ghats. These rivers are very different from those of Northern 
India. Being only fed by the monsoon rains, 'they become so dry 
in the hot season that they are hardly navigable •ven by small boats. 
In the absence of a constant supply of, water they are also less va- 
luable for irrigation purposes. 

There are several important river-systems in the peninsula. 
The valley of the Godavari and its tributaries constitutes a large 
stretch of flat land in the north (in C.P.), but it is narrow in the 
south and there are dangerous rapids where the river cuts through 
the Eastern Ghats. The valley of the Mahanadi qlso forms a broad 
plain (the Chattisgarh Plain) in the north-east, growing narrower 
as it passes through the Orissan hills to the sea. 

The Krishna (Kistna) and its tributaries, of which the chief is 
the Tungabhadra, form another important river system which al- 
most divides the Deccan plateau into two sections. This division 
is emphasized by the high Mysore plateau which lies immediately 
to the south. In the Mysore plateau' rises the Kaveri, another large 
river, which with its tributaries forms an important river-system 
in the extreme south. 

(b) The Coastal Region . — As noted above, 'there is a coastal 
plain on each side of the plateau. On the west a narrow low-lying 
strip stretches from the head of the Gulf of Cambay along the 
whole coast. Its northern part is now called the Konkan, and its 
southern the Malabar Coast. As the full force of the monsoon 
winds strikes against the Western Ghats the rainfall is heavy in this 
region and several small and short streams flow across it, but there 
are no big rivers. In Malabar these rivers form many back-waters 
along the coast, which facilitate easy communication by boat and 
favour the growth of a few fine harbours. There are some good har- 
bours also in the northern Konkan. 

There is a similar low-lying strip on the east stretching south 
from the delta of the Ganges. It is much wider than the western 
strip and its southern part, knoWn as the Coromandel coast, is very 
broad. Unlike the western strip, again, ‘it is traversed by many 
big rivers. In addition to the lower courses of the Mahanadi, the 
Godavari, the Krishna and the K&veri (Cauvery) mentioned above, 
a number of smaller streams flow across it. The deltas of these 
four rivers form an important feature in the economic geography 
of the eastern coast. The Deccan plateau is also more easily 
accessible from the eastern coastal plains than from the western, 
where the steep cliffs of the Ghats rise abruptly from the plains 
to a great height. The eastern coast has few natural harbours, 

97 



THE VEDIC AGE 


but there are open roadsteads.having easy communications with the 
interior. 

The two coastal regions running for a thousand miles along 
the entire lengths of the eastern and western sides of the triangular 
plateau gradually approach each other as the Peninsula narrows 
aown towards the south, and at last meet at Cape Comorin, the 

C uthernmost point of India. There is a small gap, about 20 
iles broad, between the Nilgiri and the Cardamom hills, which pro- 
vides an easy access from the western to the eastern coastal 
region, i.e. from the Malabar to the Coromandel coast. It is known 
as the Coimbatore or Palghat gap. 

To the south-east of Cape Comorin lies the island of Ceylon, 
which, though not an integral part, has been closely associated with 
India throughout the course of history. The Gulf of Manar wliich 
separates it from India narrows northward to Palk Strait which is 
so nearly closed in one part by a chain of islands and shoals that 
the name Adam’s Bridge has been given to it. Ceylon is shaped 
like a mango and its area is a little less than that of Mysore. It is 
mountainous in the centre, sloping down to flat and broad low-lying 
coasts all around. There are a few good harbours on the coast and, 
as in Malabar, there are many backwaters along the seashore. 

(c) The Central Indian Plateau . — Between the valleys of the 
Indus and the Ganges lies the vast Thar desert, which stretches 
almost up to the Aravalli range. The Punjab plain, south of the 
Sutlej, rises gradually and fades away into this sandy waste, with 
bare rocky hills and waterless valleys. Beyond the Aravalli is the 
Central Indian Plateau which slopes gradually from the Central 
Highlands to the Gangetic plain, in the south, and ends in the east 
in the hilly and forested region of Chota Nagpur, which extends up 
to the plains of Bengal and Orissa, To the south lies the rich valley 
of the Narmada, which rises in the Maikal range and flowing almost 
due west, falls into the Gulf of Cambay. 

The Vindhyas rise abruptly from the Narmada valley like a 
high rocky wall, and seen from the south, look like a regular 
mountain range with short spurs. But they slope gently to the 
north, without any steep fall or well-marked spurs, forming the 
Malwa plateau, the valleys of Eastern Rajputana and the tablelands 
of Bundelkhand and Baghelkhand. As noted above, all the rivers 
on this side flow into the Ganges or the Jumna. 

The north-eastern outliers of the Vindhyas, such as the Bhanrer 
and Kaimur ranges, extend almost up to the Ganges south of 
Benares and then run parallel to this river, leaving only a narrow 
passage between them, till the Rajmahal Hills. Here a little beyond 
the modem Colgong, only a very narrow defile separates the mighty 
Ganges from the high cliffs of the Rajmahal range stretching for 
about 80 miles to the south. A little further to the east, beyond 

98 



THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

the defile, the Ganges takes a sharp bend to the south and the hills 
gradlually recede from its bank 'to the west of the wide plains of 
Bengal. This configuration of the land invested the long narrow 
passage between Chunar on the' west and Teliagarhi on -the east 
with great strategic importance from the military ,point of view. 
This, the only high road between Western and Eastern India, could 
be effectively commanded by hill forts, and this explains the valu^ 
of Rohtas, Chunar and, further west,' of Kalinjar and Gwalior. Fur- 
ther east, the passes of Sliahabad and Teliagarhi, separated by a 
distance of 31 miles, served as the bottleneck through which every 
invading army had to pass, and this “gateway” served as an admira- 
ble defence for Bengal. 

The hills and forests of the Central Indian plateau from Bundel- 
khand to Chota Nagpur include many regions forming comparative- 
ly inaccessible retreats. They have given shelter to primitive 
tribes and enabled comparatively weaker peoples to defy the supe- 
rior powers of the Indo-Gangetic plain. Thus the Central Indian 
plateau has profoundly influenced the history of India in many 
ways. 

To the south of the desert and^ west of the plateau lie the rich 
lowlands of Gujarat covered by numerous low hills and watered by 
the rivers Mahi, Sabarmati, and the lower courses of the Narmada 
and the Tapti. This region includes the characteristic projection, 
known as the Kathiawar Peninsula, and the Rann of Cutch, im- 
mediately to the west of it, which is now a great marsh and almost 
dry in the hot weather (cf. Ch. IV, § VII). 

II. INFLUENCE OF GEOGRAPHY UPON HISTORY 

Like most other countries in the world the history of India has 
been profoundly influenced by its geographical features. These 
have been partly noted aboVe and will be further evident as we 
gradually proceed with our historical narrative from age to age; 
but some general broad issues may be discussed here. 

In the first place we must note the vast dimensions and the 
varied physical features of the country. In extent India is almost 
equal to Europe with the exclusion of Russia. It contains the 
highest mountain ranges, lofty plateaus, extensive plains only 
slightly higher than the sea-level, sandy deserts, large rivers, fertile 
river- valleys and forests of all types and descriptions. Every 
variety of climate from extreme cold to extreme heat is to be 
found in the country. All these factors tended to separate India 
into different local zones, each with a regional spirit of its own. 
Nevertheless India, being effectively shut off by mountains and 
seas from the other countries and forming a compact territory, 
developed as a distinctive political and cultural unit, as compared 
with the rest of the world. The Indian horizon was a large but 

99 



THE VEDIC AGE 


limited one, and the common natural boundaries gradually led to 
a sense of a common motherland.' The vision of a fundamental 
unity always loomed large and coloured the political ideals of the 
country.- This ideal of political unity was rarely realized in actual 
practice but, as a political theory, it can be traced throughout the 
long course of Indian history. The cultural unity was, however, 
more manifest, being inspired by a common language, literature, 
and religious and social ideals. In spite of seeming diversity there 
was a large measure of cultural unity, and the goal of political union 
was never lost sight of. This unity in diversity is the keynote of 
the tangled history of India, and forms the background against 
which the seemingly complex developments in the various aspects 
of Indian civilization must be viewed J 

The natural barriers of hills and rivers largely determined the 
different political (and partly cultural) units into which India was 
divided. These natural divisions favoured the growth of a local 
and regional spirit and fostered separatist tendencies. The marked 
distinction between North India, the Deccan plateau and the penin- 
sular plains to the south and east of the latter, led to the growth of 
three broad regions which maintained distinctive characteristics 
and generally played a separate role in politics throughout the long 
course of Indian history. In each of these regions political unity 
was frequently achieved or attempted with a large measure of suc- 
cess. But the attainment of political unity between any two of 
these regions, even those to the north and south of the Krishna, was 
more difficult, and though there was almost a continuous struggle 
for achieving it, successful attempts were few and far between. 
The unity of the Hindustan plains, together with the Central Indian 
plateau, was rendered more difficult by the very large extent of the 
country. It was, however, not infrequently realized, at least to a 
large extent, and the struggle for its achievement was a constant 
feature of the history of India. But the occasions were, compara- 
tively speaking, rare when a deliberate attempt was made to unite 
all the regions to the north and south of the Vindhyas. 

The political history of India, generally speaking, thus resolves 
itself into separate histories of the three regions. But the points 
of contact between them, though infrequent, were not altogether 
absent, and under powerful dynasties, in all periods of Indian 
history, a considerable part of each of the three regions was brought 
under a common sceptre. 

The three regions also exhibit similar, though sorriewhat less 
prominent, distinctions in cultural history. While the Aryan 
language and civilization swept over the whole of Northern India 
obliterating almost all traces of the pre-existing state ©f allings, its 
success was less phenomenal in the south. Over a considerable 
part of the Deccan plateau, and all over the South Indian Peninsula 

100 



THE G|;OGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

to its south and east, the non-Ary^yn languages still prevail, and 
some older customs and ideas can yet be traced. On the other hand, 
these regions were profoundly affected by the civilization of the 
north. The primitive languages have accepted a considerable Aryan 
vocabulary, whereas religious and social ideas of the Aryans have 
almost completely transformed •the old order of things. 

Within each of the three natural divisions, again, there are 
sub-divisions caused by physical barriers, which have stood in the 
way of regional unity and affected the course of history. The great 
Thar desert, intervening between the plains of the Indus and the 
valley of the Ganges, has practically converted these two regions 
into separate units. This has been very unfortunate from the point 
of view of Indian defence. As noted above, the mountain passes 
through which foreigners could invade the country all converge 
on the Indus valley, and the bulk of the North Indian plains being 
separated from this region by the great desert, the resources of 
North India, far less the whole of India, could seldom be employed 
to guard these gateways. Moreover the desert, though effectively 
checking any aggression from the lower Indus region, permitted 
the invaders to bypass it through^ an opening on its north. The 
narrow plain above Delhi, bounded by the desert, the Jumna and 
the hills, was the bottleneck through which foreign invaders had 
to pass from the valley of the Indus to that of the Ganges. 

This explains the strategic position of Delhi as an imperial capi- 
tal and also how it is that the battle-fields of Panipat, and others near 
it, have often decided the fate of India. But the foreign invaders 
had the great advantage of forcing the main gateway and getting 
a strong foothold in the country, before they had to reckon with 
the main strength of Indian defence. Illustration of this meets us 
at almost every step as we go^ through the history of the foreign con- 
quests of India. 

The Thar desert offers a great contrast to the fertile plains 
around it, but its peoples, though scanty, have imbibed from the soil 
a sturdy character and love of freedom which sharply distinguish 
them from their neighbours. The hills and forests have imparted 
a similar hardihood to the people and supplied means of defence 
which are lacking in the plains! Besides, these regions, less favour- 
ed by nature and more difficult of access, have afforded shelter to 
the wild primitive tribes who were dispossessed of their hearth 
and home in the fertile plains by the more civilized conquerors of 
the land. Thus it is in the desert and the fastnesses of the hilfs 
and forests of India that we still meet with the earlier strata of 
population like the Kols and Bhils who have maintained, almost 
intact, the ' primitive characteristics which distinguished them 
thousands of years ago. To these geographical factors also largely 
belongs the credit that certain regions have earned by successful 

tOl 



THE VEDIC AGE 


struggle for independence against heavy odds. The heroic struggle 
of the Rajputs and the Mara^has, for example, against the imperial 
powers of Delhi, was probably as much due to the nature of their 
lands as to the bravery of the people. To a less extent the strate- 
gic position of the Tehagarhi passes explains the frequent rebellion 
of Bengal against the Central authority of Delhi. 

The extensive valley of the Ganges has been divided into seve- 
ral local regions by the large rivers, and the Indus valley^ though 
comparatively smaller, is broadly divided into two by the middle 
and lower courses of the river. Thus in Northern India the modern 
provinces of the Punjab, Sind, U.P., Bihar, and Bengal, as well as 
the desert region of Rajputana, the plains of Northern Gujarat, 
plateaus of Malwa and Bundelkhand, and the isolated hilly tracts 
of Chota Nagpur have the roots of their separate entities as distinct 
units dug deep into the past. No doubt racial and linguistic factors 
played some part in creating these natural regions, but no one can 
ignore the very large influence of the geographical factors, includ- 
ing the strategic means of defence afforded by nature. 

The Deccan plateau was divided into several distinct regions 
by the two mighty rivers, the Godavari and the Krishna, and their 
tributaries; it was also separated from the coastal plains on the east 
and the west. The eastern coastal plain was divided by the Orissa 
hills and the estuaries of the two rivers named above. The region 
south of the plateau was sharply split into an eastern and western 
zone by the Nilgiris and Cardamom Hills, and the former was again 
subdivided, to a certain extent, by the Kaveri river. All these geo- 
graphical regions had generally speaking developed into separate 
distinct units and retained their individuality through the ages. 

Apart from these broad regional distinctions, even smaller 
barriers of hills and rivers have tended to keep alive the spirit of 
local autonomy in well-marked political units created by them. Not 
only in the vast Hindustan Plains and Central Indian plateau, but 
even in the comparatively narrower regions of the Deccan plateau 
and South Indian plains, we find the influence of such regional poli- 
tics from time immemorial, with a surprising tenacity that has 
kept up the isolationist spirit even amidst political catastrophes and 
kaleidoscopic changes of rulers and’ dynasties. The old kingdoms 
of Kosala, Magadha, Gauda, Vahga, Avanti, Lata, and Surashtra in 
the north, and Kalihga, Andhra, Maharashtra, Kar^ata, Chera, 
Chola, and Pandya in the south, among others, seem to possess eter- 
haT lives. Empires rose and fell, the whole country passed through 
a series of foreign invasions, but these states, under different names 
and various ruling dynasties, continued their individual existence 
almost throughout the course of history. 

The popular view about the lack of political unity in India 
i^ores the vastness of its area and the natural barriers that tend 

102 



THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

to separate its different regions. ^ Whan we deplore political dis- 
union in India we really view it on the footing of a comparatively 
small kingdom like Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia or Iran in the ancient 
world or a state in mediaeval or modern Europe. But we forget 
that there was not a single kingdom in any part ’of the*world before, 
the nineteenth century, of a size comparable to that of India, which 
maintained political unity for a considerable length of time. On 
the other hand^ the important kingdoms of India, such as Magadha, 
Kosala, Malava, Chalukya, Chola etc. which, under varying names, 
have formed its constituent parts since remote antiquity, can well 
be compared with the single states in Asia and Europe, both in 
ancient and modern times. As in Asia and Europe, so in India, 
two or more of these kingdoms have often been politically united, 
and we have occasionally even mighty empires comprising most 
of them. 

India is almost as large as Europe, excluding Russia, or the 
whole of Western Asia, and can no more be treated as a single poli- 
tical unit than any of them. The consolidation of large kingdoms 
was very difficult before modern scientific achievements ehminated 
the effects of distance and natural barriers, but these were impor- 
tant factors in old days, and operated more or less in the same way 
all over the world. India, as a consolidated united kingdom, is 
well within the range of practical politics today, ’when the whole 
country is closely knit together by a system of railways, and even 
two of the remotest regions of India are more famihar to each other 
than were two neighbouring provinces in the good old days. Now 
the news of a revolt in the most distant part of India would be con- 
veyed instantly to its political centre, and a large force could reach 
the scene of disturbance in a few hours or a few days. But things 
were very different in the day§ of Asoka when the peoples of his 
frontiers such as those of Taxila (Punjab) and Suvarpagiri (Mysore) 
hardly knew each other. If we remember that the emperor would 
not receive the news of any disaffection in these places in less than 
a month, and many months would perhaps elapse before his army 
could reach there, we need hardly wonder that the Maurya empire 
did not last for more than 137 years. 

A considerable part of Indian history is a chronicle of unsuccess- 
ful attempts to set up a stable empire over the whole or greater 
part of India, the impulse to which was partly caused by political 
ambition, but in part arose or received its strength from a common 
consciousness of the cultural and geographical unity of India. 

The vast extent of the country, and its comparative seclusion 
from the rest of the world, had other important historical conse- 
quences. As noted above, it made India a distinct and self-suffi- 
cient geographical unit, almost a little world by itself. An Indian 
ruler or a military genius had enough scope for his political ambi- 

103 



THE VEDIC AGE 


tion or martial enterprises wdthin the natural limits of the country, 
and so tne comparatively unknown regions beyond the high hills 
or seas held out no temptation to him. The distances covered by 
the campaigns of the most famous military leaders in the ancient 
world, and the extent of territory conquered by the largest empire- 
buiiders in ancient times, could w 611 be comprised within the limits 
of India. A Cnandragupta Maurya or a Samudra-gupta, not to men- 
tion lesser names, could quench his inordinate thirst for military 
glory without crossing the natural boundaries of India. It is only 
very rarely that rulers like Rajendra Chola overstepped them and 
carried arms beyond the seas or hills. Thus while foreign conquest 
is an important feature in the history of Egypt and many ancient 
kingdoms in Mesopotamia and Iran^ it never figured as an impor- 
tant element in Indian polity. As a natural consequence of 
this, an Indian ruler would scarcely be expected ever to emulate 
the exploits of Thutmose III, Cyrus, Xerxes, or Alexander, and the 
vision of a Roman empire extending over three continents would 
be altogether out of place in Indian history. But at the same time, 
the conception of a distinct unity, as against the rest of the world, 
was promoted in India in a manner which was not to be seen in 
any part of the ancient world of equal magnitude. 

The physical features of the country affected the lives and habits 
of the people. The valleys of the numerous rivers, specially the 
Indus, the Ganges, and their tributaries, offered easy means of 
communication and cheap livelihood. Hence their banks were 
studded with flourishing seats of civilization from very early times. 
The absence of keen struggle for existence gave opportunities for 
intellectual pursuits, and the wild beauty of nature favoured a 
speculative turn of mind and the development of philosophical 
ideas. But nature’s bounty was unfavourable to the growth of 
physical hardihood or a tendency to scrutinise the mysteries of the 
physical world leading to a scientific spirit. This at least partly 
explains why art, literature, and philosophy flourished, but positive 
sciences made comparatively little progress in India. 

The extensive coast-line of India fostered trade and maritime 
activity and made the Indians hardy mariners. From an early 
period they navigated the seas, both in the east as well as in the 
west, and their bold sea-faring exploits carried them to distant and 
unknown parts of the world. 

The very narrow sea-board on the west was shut off from the 
interior by the precipitous Western Ghats and hence flourishing sea- 
ports arose only on its northern and southern extremities. For 
they had to be sustained ’by constant supply of industrial products 
from the interior. As the gap between the Nilgiris and Cardamom 
Hills in South India offered an easy means of communication bet- 
ween the eastern and western coasts of the peninsula, we find a 

104 



THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

number of important harbours on the western coast in this neighbour- 
hood. 

The eastern sea-board contained important harbours near the 
mouths of the big rivers viz. the Ganges, Mahanadi, Godavaif, 
Krishna, and Kaveri, as they were important 'channels of commu- 
nication with the interior. The Ganges being the only outlet to the 
sea for the extensive and populous regions in Northern India, the 
ports at its mouths became flourishing centres of trade. 

The trade gave impetus to colonization and Indian colonies were 
planted even in the most distant regions in the Far East. The 
maritime activities of India were, however, almost solely devoted 
to peaceful pursuits. This is mainly due to the vast expanse of 
the sea on both sides of the peninsula. The direct voyage between 
the Indian coast and the opposite shore, either of Africa on the west 
or Indo-China and the East Indies in the east, was long and risky. 
The Indian rulers having enough scope for military enterprise and 
imperial ambition in the mainland itself, the dubious chances of 
success afforded by the sea could scarcely tempt them to devote 
their energy and resources to building a powerful navy in order 
to establish an overseas empire. • 

Only one Indian power, the Cholas, attempted such a bold 
enterprise after having acquired possession of almost the whole 
length of the eastern sea-board. But in spite of brilliant success 
in the beginning, it proved too heavy a burden and had to be aban- 
doned. If India had the advantage, like Greece or Rome, of having 
a narrow sea with islands and mainland beyond it within easy 
reach, she might have developed into a naval power as did many of 
her colonies in Malaya and Indo-China, regions which offered these 
facilities. 

Indian colonization was tjhierefore the result of private indi- 
vidual enterprise, and not due to military conquest or an organized 
undertaking backed up by the State. No colony was the result 
of a single mass migration sent forth by an Indian ruler to relieve 
congestion or to expand his dominions. Sporadic settlements and 
gradual infiltration by bold Indians, who left home for various reasons 
and at different times, slowly buHt up these colonies, and consequent- 
ly they had no political tie or even intimate association with the 
mother country. But they proved to be the milestones in the trium- 
phant progress of Indian culture across a vast region. Had these 
colonies been within easy reach of India she might have built up 
a colonial empire such as the Greeks and Romans had done. But 
geographical factors determined the character of Indian coloniza- 
tion. It was to be a means to cultural conquest rather than politi- 
cal aggrandizement, of commercial enterprise rather than economic 
exploitation. 

This brief review has sufficiently demonstrated the profound 

m 



THE VEDIC AGE 


influence which geography has exercised upon the history of India. 
It is easy, but not necessary, to dwell upon many other particulars, 
for these will be evident as we proceed with our historical narra- 
tive. 

In conclusion we must consider the effect of climate on the 
history of India. It is generally assumed that the tropical climate 
has enervated the people o^, India and mainly accounts for their 
failure to check the hardy mountaineers from colder regions, less 
favoured by nature, who were tempted to their country by its 
wealth and fertility. It has been regarded as an irony of fate that 
the agreeable climate and the vast plains watered by rivers, which 
have been the source of India’s wealth and happiness^ have also 
proved to be the main causes of her ruin by making their inhabi- 
tants fond of ease and luxury, devoted to the ideals and pursuits 
of peace, and less hardy and persevering than their opponents 
schooled in the hardship of nature. 

On the other hand, it has been pointed out that at least a con- 
siderable section of the Indians have been always noted for their 
prowess and bravery, that the Rajputs, Marathas and Sikhs in 
modern times have not proved less hardy than any other peoples, 
and that the defeat of the Indians at the hands of the Western inva- 
ders cannot be ascribed solely or even mainly to the influence of 
climate. Tlie facts of history seem to uphold this contention, as 
on a careful consideration of the details of the various campaigns, 
so far known, it would be difficult to maintain that the discomfiture 
of the Indians is to be attributed exclusively or even mainly to 
their lack of physical strength. 

It is, however, a singular fact worth noting, that in the nume- 
rous recorded instances of the foreign invasions from the West, the 
Indians have almost always been ^^defeated by the new-comers. 
This can hardly be regarded as a pure accident. Nor can it be ex- 
plained away by a lack of unity among the defenders, for the in- 
vaders did not always possess a numerical superiority over their 
opponents. 

The true explanation seems to lie in India’s ignorance of the 
outside world. The rise of political powers or new political combi- 
nations, the evolution of military tactics, and the invention of new 
military weapons or fresh equipment, even in Central or Western 
Asia, not to speak of remoter countries, hardly ever interested 
India, though, as events proved, she fell a constant victim to one 
or other of them. The details of the defensive campaigns waged 
by Indian rulers leave no doubt that they were either unaware of 
the impending danger, and consequently not sufficiently prepared, 
or were outmatched by the new military formations or weapons to 
which they were complete strangers. The charge of a compact and 
well-disciplined cavalry force, held in reserve, has often proved 

106 



THE GEOGRAPHICAL BACKGROUND OF INDIAN HISTORY 

decisive against the mass of elephants and infantry of the Indians, 
and yet they have never learnt the value of cavalry or the strate- 
gic importance of a reserve forpe. It may be noted as a typical 
instance that the Indian opponents of Babur .were ignorant of the 
fire-arms which the latter used with such dreadful * effect. 

The reason for such ignorance is not merely to be sought in a 
spirit of isolation fostered by almost insurmountable barriers. It 
is also partly due to the fact that, for reasons stated above, Indian 
rulers had no occasion or temptation to carry on campaigns outside 
India. They lived and fought in their little world, vast enough 
for their personal ambitions and enterprises^ and cared little for 
what was happening in the outside world. 

Unfortunately, the physical barriers which, shut off the vision 
of Indian rulers from the outside world were not strong or power- 
ful enough to keep out all foreign invaders from Indian soil. When 
some of them did cross the barriers into India, they brought with 
them new ideas and forces of a progressive world with which India 
could not cope. But so strongly did the geographical factor ope- 
rate, that as soon as these foreign invaders settled in India, they 
imbibed the insular spirit so congenial to her soil, and themselves 
fell victims to it. So it has been in the past, and so it is destined 
to be in the future, so long as the political vision of India confines 
itself within her natural boundaries of hills and seas, and does not 
look beyond to the world outside. 


1 . It would be wrong to think, as many do, that the conception of the fundamental 
unity of India is only of recent growth. Tliis idea can be traced to ancient periods 
by the use of the common name, Bharatavarsha, for the whole country, and the 
designation Bh^ratl Santatih applied to the people of India. Thus we read in the 
Vishnu-Purdna (ii. 3. 1) that “the country lying to the north of the ocean and 
to the south of Himadri (Himalaya) is called Bharata-varsha (land of Bharata), 
for there live the descendants of Bharata (Bhdratt santatih ) Similarly the con- 
ception of the political unity of India appvears from references to “thousand 
Yojanas (leagues) of land that stretch from the Himalayas to the sea as the 
proper domain of a single universal emperor,” and the conventional description 
in literature and epigraphic records of imperial domains stretching from the 
Brahmaputra (or Eastern Ocean) to the seven mouths of the Indus (or Western 
Ocean). As regards cultural unity, the findspots of Asoka’s records prove that 
one language and one script were used, or at least understood, by common 
people all over India in the third century B.C. Since then the Sanskrit language 
and literature have throughout been a common bond of culture in addition to 
religious and social ideas and institutions. 


107 




CHAPTER VI 


FLORA AND FAUNA 

I. THE FLORA 
*■ 

The vegetation of a country depends on, and to a large extent 
is determined by, its geographical and climatic features, and India 
stands in a very favourable position with respect to both these 
conditions. 

“There is no part of the world better marked off by nature as 
a region by itself than India. It is a region indeed full of contrast 
in physical features and in climate.” The extraordinary varieties 
in its physical features have been described above. The climate 
also varies from “torrid to arctic, from almost absolute aridity to 
a maximum of humidity.” It is greatly influenced by the monsoon 
winds and the distribution and orientation of the mountain ranges 
and their altitude. The annual rainfall varies prodigiously in dif- 
ferent parts of India from 450 inches in the Khasi Hills of Assam 
to about three inches in the deserts of Sind and Rajputana. Its tem- 
perature also shows enormous variation with the changes of seasons. 
At some places during summer months it records 130 degrees or 
more in the shade and in winter it goes down many degrees below 
freezing point. 

The soils of India, like its climate, comprise almost all the dif- 
ferent types found elsewhere in the world. The alluvial soils of 
Assam, Bengal, the United Provinces, the Punjab, Rajputana, Sind. 
Gujarat, the Godavari, Krishna and Tanjore districts of Madras and 
the eastern and western coastlands of the Deccan, are important for 
agricultural crops and have made India essentially an agricultural 
country. The Deccan trap and the regur or black cotton soils of 
the greater portion of the Bombay Presidency. Berar, western parts 
of the Central Provinces and Hyderabad, in the valleys of the Tapti, 
Godavari, Narmada, Krishna and parts of Kathiawar, and the 
western portion of Central India, are very favourable to the culti- 
vation of cotton, jowar (great millet), wheat, linseed and gram. The 
crystalline and laterite (red) soils of Madras, Mysore, the south- 
east portion of the Bombay Presidency, the eastern half of Hyde- 
rabad, parts of the Central Provinces, Orissa, Chota Nagpur, western 
borderland of Bengal, parts of eastern Rajputana and the Bundel- 
khand region of Central India are fertile when dark coloured, and 
infertile when they are light coloured and sandy. 

India’s contiguity to bordering countries has been responsible 
for the migration of a large number of plants from China, Tibet, 
Siberia, Malaya, Europe and South Africa, and they form the exotic 

108 



FLORA AND FAUNA 


elements of the flora of India. The ruimber of recorded species of 
flowering plants comes to about 17,000 under 176 families, and there 
are about 600 ferns and fern allies, 3,000 mosses and 178 liverworts. 
According to Chatter jee, 38 per cent of the flowering plants of India 
are exotic. 

From their exhaustive and critical studies of the Indian flora 
Hooker and Thomson observe that ‘‘Jndia contains representatives 
of almost every natural family on the globe. . .and it contains a 
more general and complete illustration of the genera of the other 
parts of the world than any other country whatsoever of the equal 
or even of considerably larger extent.”^ 

India is so extensive and varied a country that for a closer 
study of its vegetation it has been necessary to divide it into three 
botanical areas and six provinces. The three areas or regions are: 
the Himalayan, Eastern^ and Western. The Himalayan represents 
a ''rich tropical, temperate and alpine flora with forests of conifers, 
oaks, rhododendrons, and a profusion of orchids’’; the Eastern, "a 
few conifers, many oaks and palms with a great preponderance of 
orchids”; and the Western “has only one conifer^ no oaks, few palms 
and comparatively few orchids.” The Himalayan flora has in com- 
mon many European genera; the Eastern, many Chinese and Mala- 
yan; and the Western, European, Oriental and African. 

These three botanical areas are subdivided into six botanical 
provinces, based on their climate and physical characters, namely 
(1) the Eastern Himalaya, (2) the Western Himalaya, (3) the Indus 
Plain, (1-) the Gangetic Plain including the Sunderbans, (5) Mala- 
bar, and (6) the Deccan, each characterized by its own flora. 

It would be beyond the scope of this chapter to go into details 
of the vegetation of these provinces, but in order to give an idea of 
the immensity of India’s vegetable wealth a brief enumeration of 
the principal types of vegetation is given below. 

1. Forest Vegetation: its types 

India is very rich in forests ; as a matter of fact forests cover 
more than one-fifth of its total area. The forests of India supply 
valuable timber, firewood, essential oils, resin, turpentine, lac^ dye- 
ing material, tanning material, myrobalans, sources of paper pulp 
and other materials of commerce and industry. 

According to the variation in climate, altitude and habitat the 
forest vegetation of India is divided into five types: (1) the Ever- 
green, (2) the Deciduous, (3) the Dry, (4) the Hill, and (5) the Tidaf 
or Littoral. 

The Evergreen , — The dense and luxuriant Evergreen flourishes 
where the annual rainfall is over 80 inches and contains trees of 
many important families, such as the Dipterocarpaceae, Guttiferae, 
Annonaceae, Meliaceae, Burseraceae, Sapotaceae, Euphorbiaceae, 

109 



THE VEDIC AGE 


and the Palmae. They include .many species of great economic 
value, such as ebony, teak, rosewood, ironwood, bamboos, the jaman, 
the neem, and tamarind. In the Carnatic Evergreens the families 
Ebenaceae, Sapotaceae, Capparidaceae, Rhamnaceae and Myrtaceae 
predominate. ^ 

The sea-shores are skirted with coconuts; the villages are sur- 
rounded with groves of betQlnuts and talipots; cassia, pepper and 
cardamom flourish wild in the jungles and form staple products 
of export. Sandalwood is found in the outskirts of Malabar. Nut« 
meg, coffee, and tea grow in the hill slopes, and cinnamon flouri- 
shes in this region. Artocarpus, calophyllitm, cedrela, dalhergia^ 
dipterocarpus^ and others occur in plenty. In Assam forests bam- 
boos, palms, ficuj^ cycas, ferns, and others grow in abundance. 

The Deciduous. — The Deciduous occupies the larger part of 
the Deccan and is also known as the Monsoon Forests. Trees are 
large-sized and form very remarkable timbers, such as teak, sal, 
padauk, redwood, sandalwood, anjan, species of Terminalia, Chlo~ 
roocylon^ Swietenia, Diospyros, Acacia, Alhizzia, and others. Of 
palms, Phoenix syh^estris and Borassus fiabellifer grow gregariously. 
The chief bamboos are Bcmhnsa arundinacea and Dendrocalamus 
strictus; ferns and their allies are rare in these forests. 

The Dry. — The Dry forests are found in the desert regions of 
Sind, Rajputana, and the Punjab, and the plants are characterized 
by thick and fleshy stems and leaves and mostly consist of thickets 
of shrubs and a few stunted trees; many of them are leafless. The 
chief families are the Leguminosae, Tamaricaceae, Rhamnaceae, 
and the characteristic trees are: the Jhand, various species of Tama-^ 
rix, Capparis, Sahmdora, Acacia, Phoenix sylvestris, Zizyphus, 
etc. 

The Hill. — The Mountain or Hyi forests are found in South 
India above 5,000 feet and in the Himalayas above 3,000 feet alti- 
tude. The trees are Evergreen, of which the following are the 
most conspicuous: oak, picea, deodar, pines, firs; chestnut, walnut, 
maple, elm, ash, birches, laurels, pyrus, poplar, rhododendron, and 
species of abies. The prominent families of these forests are the 
Coniferae, Cupuliferae, Sapindaceae, Lauraceae, Magnoliaceae, Sali- 
caceae and Urticaceae. .Indian Bladder-nut and Lilac, Rosa web- 
biand, moschata, and cglanteria, Parrottia sp., the mountain ash, 
the bullace and the common hawthorn are peculiar to the Western 
^Himtlayas. Species of magnolia, musa, palms, pandanus, bam- 
boos, orchids, cycas, and ferns abound in the Eastern Himalayas. 
Beautiful herbaceous plants like anemone, aconites, violets, primu- 
las and balsams abound. The alpine zones contain species of rhodo- 
dendron, junipers and associations of dwarfish herbaceous plants, 
such as species of Rheum^ Arenaria, and Saussarea. Both in the 
Eastern and Western Himalayas about 4,000 flowering species under 

no 



FLORA AND FAUNA 


147-160 families, 230-250 fernp and their allies with eight tree 
ferns have so far been recorded. 

The Littoral, — The Littoral forests are found in the deltas of 
the Ganges, the Mahanadi, and the Indus, and also to some extent 
in the regions washed by the high tide and* salt water. They are 
rich sources of fuel. The whole of the Sunderbans is named after 
the Sundri (Heritiera) trees. Th<^ prominent families of these 
forests are: Rhizophoraceae, Gramineae, Cyperaceae, Typhaceae, 
Euphorbiaceae, Verbanaceae and the two palms, namely, Nipa fru- 
ticans and Phoenix paludosa. In many places Avicennia, Nipa, 
and Aegialitis form associations; Suaeda maritima, Acanthus Hid- 
folius, Sonneratia apetala, Ceriops roxhurghiana, Bruguiera gym- 
norhiza, Aegiceros major, and others are some of the dominant 
species of these regions. These forests are popularly known as 
the Mangrove Forests. 

2. Freshwater Vegetation 

About 160 flowering species form the common water or marsh 
vegetation of India. The beautiful white, blue, and red water lilies, 
and their allies, the magnificent white and red lotuses, Euryale jerox, 
a relative of the Victoria regia, and Limnanthemum with clusters 
of white flowers lend charm and beauty to the fresh water lakes, 
pools, ponds, and other inland waters. Nymphoea alba, Caltha, 
and others occur in the lakes of Kashmir. Species of Lemna, Wolfia, 
pistia stratiotes, water hyacinth (recently introduced), bladderworts, 
and Ceratophyllum are conspicuous free floating aquatic plants, 
while water-chestnut, Ipomoea sp., waterferns, and many others 
are amphibious. Vallisneria, Hydr'lla, Ottelia, Najas, Chara^ etc., 
form extensive floor vegetation in shallow water-courses. The 
Podostemonads are regarded as the most remarkable of India’s 
freshwater flora in the rapid streams of hill slopes. 

3. Cultivated Vegetation 

An account of the vegetation of India will be incomplete with- 
out some notice of the large varieties of her cultivated vegetation. 
As India extends, both horizontally and altitudinally, from the 
tropical to the temperate zones, cultivated crops of these zones afl 
over the globe are being, or can be. grown successfully in India. 
Crop vegetation in India, as in other countries, is distinguished into 
four general types, namely: (1) the Hill, (2) the Wet (Monsoort), 
(3) the Dry (Winter) and (4) the Irrigational. 

The total area of cultivable land in India is about 450 million 
acres, and of these nearly 285 million acres are actually under 
cultivation. The following is a bare account of the principal crops 
and their distribution in India. These are classified under six 

Hi 



THE VEDIC AGE 


major heads, namely: (1) thCoCereals, (2) the Pulses, (3) Sugar- 
cane, (4) Oil seeds, (5) Fibre crops, and (6) Plantation crops. 

Cereals, — The cereals comprise rice, wheat, millet, barley, and 
maize, the first two being the principal cereal crops. 

Rice is cultivated in Bengal, Madras, Bihar, the United Pro- 
vinces, Orissa, the Central Provinces, Assam, Bombay, and Sind, 
and covers about 70 million apres. Wheat is grown in about 35 
million acres, and the principal wheat-growing provinces of India 
are the Punjab, the United Provinces, and the North-West Frontier 
Province. Millet is extensively grown in Madras, Bombay and part 
of Hyderabad. There are two principal kinds: jowar (Andropogon 
sorghum) and hajra {Pennisetum typhoideum), and the total area 
under millet cultivation comes to about 63 million acres. Barley is 
grown only over a comparatively small area in the Ganges basin 
of the United Provinces, Bihar, Peshawar, and Central Kashmir. 
Maize in small quantities is cultivated more or less all over India 
but in large quantities in the United Provinces, Bihar, Nepal, and 
the Punjab both in the plains and hills. 

Pnises. — This important group includes gram, lentils, peas, 
arhar, and many species of Phaseohis, and the total area under 
cultivation approximates to 50 million acres of which gram alone 
occupies between 15-17 million acres. Gram is mostly grown in the 
Punjab, the United* Provinces, Bihar, the Central Provinces, Bom- 
bay, Hyderabad, and Mysore; lentils in the Central Provinces, 
Madras, and the United Provinces; and peas and other pulses in 
many parts of India. 

Sugar-cane. — India is regarded as the original home of sugar- 
cane and the present area under its cultivation exceeds four million 
acres. The most important sugar-cane growing provinces are the 
United Provinces, the Punjab, Madras, ^Bengal, Bihar, and Bombay. 

Oil Seeds. — The importance of oil seeds is very great. Not 
only do they constitute an essential element in the diet of every 
Indian, but they are also in great demand for the manufacture of 
vegetable ghee, perfumeries, varnishes, paints, lubricants, candles 
soaps, and other similar products of commerce. The principa 
oil-yielding crops of India are rape ^nd mustard, ground-nuts, lin- 
seed, castor-seed, sesamuni seed, etc. 

The cultivation of rape and mustard is confined to the northern 
parts of India, in the United Provinces, Bengal, the Punjab, Bihar, 
and Orissa over an area of about six million acres. Ground^-nut is 
grown over eight million acres chiefly in Madras, Bombay, Hydera- 
bad, the Central Provinces, and Chota Nagpur. The area under 
linseed crop is about three and a half million acres distributed 
over the Central Provinces, Bihar, Orissa, the United Provinces, 
Bombay, Bengal, Hyderabad, and the Punjab. Sesamum is grown 
in almost all the provinces of India, but mainly in Bombay, Madras, 

112 



FLORA AND FAUNA 


and the Central Provinces. Castor oil plants as a principal crop are 
grown in Madras, Hyderabad, Bombay, and the Central Provinces. 
Coconut oil is derived from the copra of coconuts. 

Fibre Crops. — Cotton, jute, and hemp are the principal fibre 
crops of India. Of these, cotton occupies 25-27 million acres, jute 
2.18 million, and hemp 0.6 million acres. Cotton is a dry-region 
crop and is grown in Bombay, the. Central Provinces, Berar, the 
Punjab, Madras, the United Provinces, Bengal, Hyderabad, Baroda, 
Rajputana, Sind, and Mysore. Jute cultivation is restricted to 
Bengal, Assam, Bihar, and Orissa. Two varieties of Hemp, the 
Sunn and the Roselle, are grown in Bombay, the Central Provinces, 
the United Provinces, and Madras, and to a small extent in the 
North-Western Himalayas and Sind. 

Plantation Crops, — The principal plantation crops are: tea, 
coffee, tobacco, rubber, indigo, opium-poppy, condiments and spices, 
fruits and vegetables including root crops. The area under tea culti- 
vation in India is about 0.82 million acres in the hill slopes of 
Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Madras, the Punjab, the United Provinces, 
Cochin, Mysore, and Travancore. Coffee cultivation is restricted 
mainly to Mysore, Madras, Coorg, Cochin, and Travancore, the total 
area under coffee being about 0.2 million acres. Tobacco was first 
introduced to India in 1508, and the best tobacco is now grown over 
li million acres in Bihar, Bengal, Madras, Mysore, Bombay, the 
Punjab, and Hyderabad. Rubber is mainly grown in Travancore, 
Madras, Coorg, Cochin, and Mysore. Indigo cultivation is confined 
to the Ganges valley, and Opium-poppy in Bihar and the United Pro- 
vinces. Condiments and spices are grown mostly in South India 
and Assam over an area of 2 million acres. India’s fruits and vege- 
tables, including root crops, cover an area approximately of 4.5 
million acres and include grapes, oranges, apricots, pears, apples, 
bananas, mangoes, litchis, pine-apples, papaya, guava, water melons, 
and others. The coconuts provide delicious drinks and nutritious 
food, and are a source of copra and coir. 

Before concluding this brief account of Indian vegetation, spe- 
cific mention should be made of three trees which have figured in 
Indian vegetable-lore and literature since Vedic times: the banyan 
(Ficus bengalensis) , the pipal (Ficiis religiosa)^ and the :§almali 
(Bombay malaharicum) , The banyan with its spreading branches 
and prop roots, the pipal with its wealth of hanging leaves con- 
stantly fluttering in the wind, and the towering salniali, a blaze of 
scarlet flowers in early spring are distinctive features of the Indian 
landscape. 

2. THE FAUNA 

On account of the great diversity of climatic and physical con- 
ditions in a vast country like India its animal life is so remarkably 

113 



THE VEDIC AGE 


varied and abundant that it is beyond the scope of the present chap- 
ter to give even a general account of the characteristic features of 
its fauna. We therefore propose to confine our attention mainly 
to* the vertebrate animals; for though the invertebrates are far 
greater in number and variety the vertebrates are better known 
and more beneficial. • 

1. The Vertebrates 

Amongst vertebrates, the mammals constitute the highest group 
and are of special interest as these include man himself. In India, 
mammals are well represented. Only the duckbill and spiny ant- 
eaters and the pouched mammals such as kangaroos and the opos- 
sum do not occur in India. Amongst the man-like apes only the 
hoolock gibbon is found in India. This occurs in large troops in 
the dense forests of Assam and adjacent areas. The monkeys are 
represented by a number of species and include the langurs or hanu- 
man monkeys, which have become famous by being connected 
with the story of the Hindu epic — the Rdmdyana, These occur 
practically over the whole of India. The lemurs in India are re- 
presented by the slow loris occurring in the forests of Assam and 
the slender loris Living in the forests of South India. 

The various groups of land carnivores are well represented in 
India. Most of them, particularly the larger ones, constitute the 
big game for hunting. Amongst these, the Indian lions are at 
present restricted to the forests of Kathiawar peninsula. The tigers 
are widely distributed throughout India — in the snowy Himalayas, 
in the evergreen forests and dry open jungles as well as in swamps 
of the Sunderbans, The panther or the common Indian leopard, 
the beautiful Himalayan snow leopard, the skin of which is in great 
demand in the fur trade, and the cheetah or the hunting leopard 
are the other large carnivores. 

The smaller carnivores of the cat-group include, besides the 
various forms of cats, the civets, the mongooses, and the hyaenas. 
The other carnivores include the wolves, jackals, wild dogs, foxes, 
as well as the bears, weasels, and otters. 

The hoofed mammals constitute an important group of animals. 
Because of the immense usefulness of many a member of this group, 
these play an impK>rtant part in the economic life of human beings. 
The hoofed forms are either even-tded or odd-toed. The odd-toed 
forms are the horse and ass, the rhinoceros and the elephant. Rhino- 
ceros in India is represented at the present day by the single race 
of one-horned forms, which is now restricted to Assam and the 
swamps and grassy jungles, of low hills in parts of Nepal. Tlie 
elephants and the horses are both notable for the part they played 
in the numerous battles fought on Indian soil in the early days of 
history. The even-toed forms include the cattle, sheep and goats, 

114 



FLORA AND FAUNA 


deer, gazelle and antelopes, and the bpars and pigs. The cattle in 
India include, besides domestic * forms, the bison and the wild 
buffalo. 

The sheep and the goats are chiefly Himalayan. The goats in- 
clude the Himalayan form — the Asiatic ibex and the Nilgiri wild 
goat or the South Indian ibex. * The several races of deer found 
in India live in more or less thick jungles. These include the bark- 
ing-deer, the barasingha or swamp-deer, the sambar, the spotted-deer 
or chital and the hog-deer. Another race found in the high alti- 
tudes of the Himalayas is the hornless dark brown musk-deer. The 
male of this race bears beneath the skin of the abdomen a gland, 
the secretion of which is known as musk, reputed for its various 
uses especially for medicinal purposes. The mouse-deer or the 
Indian chevrotain is another hornless race of very small size. The 
black buck, the only representative in India of antelope, has beauti- 
ful spirally-twisted horns. The Nilgai is an inhabitant of open 
forests whereas the four-homed chousingha lives in the forests in 
the hilly tracts of peninsular India. The chinkara or Indian gazelle 
lives in the deserts whereas the pigmy-hog occurs in the forests of 
Eastern Himalayas. Pig-sticking or .spearing wild hog from horse- 
back is a favourite sport in India. 

The insectivores include tree-shrews, hedgehogs, moles, and 
shrews. Tlie rodents include the squirrels and marmots, jerboas, 
rats and mice, porcupines and hares. 

The scaly ant-eater or Pangolin is common in India. 

The bats include chiefly the large frugivorous flying foxes and 
the small insectivorous bats. 

The whales and dugongs are marine animals and are occasionally 
found near the Indian coasts. The dolphin and the porpoise occur 
in the rivers. 

The bird life of India has attracted considerable interest due to 
its remarkable variety and wide range of distribution The dis- 
tribution of birds in India is not. however, homogeneous. Migra- 
tion of birds is a well-known fact, but in India the migratory birds 
are few in number and the few that migrate into the Indian region 
come from the north only. 

The familiar birds which are commonly found around human 
habitations include the crows, the house mdynd, and the house spar- 
row, The crows include the common house crow and the jungle crow. 
The ravens are larger in size than the jungle crows. The jack- 
daws and rooks found in Kashmir and parts of north-west India* 
are winter visitors from the northern region. The jackdaw has a 
musical and melodious call and it makes, a delightful pet. Of the 
various maynds found in India the house maynd shares with the 
crow the distinction of being the most familiar and best known 
bird. 


115 



THE VEDIC AGE 


The magpies are beauti|ully coloured birds usually living in 
forests. These birds are very noisy and their call is harsh and un- 
pleasant. Tits are small birds inhabiting chiefly the forests. The 
babblers and thrushes are gregarious birds feeding on the ground. 
They are noisy chatterers par excellence. Warblers are small birds 
usually living in open grassy tracts or sandy ground. The red- 
vented bulbul is a common garden bird throughout India. It is 
reputed for its cheeriul call notes. The well-known Indian robin 
is the dayai, one of the best songsters. The shama is another 
famous singing bird of India. The familiar pleasant call notes of 
pee-ou-a produced by the golden oriole or the mango-bird in the 
mango season are heard in gardens as well as in forests both at 
dawn and at simset. There are many fly-catchers, which are usually 
small birds. Another familiar bird is the king crow which is fre- 
quently found to chase crows. It is a common sight to find this 
bird perching on telegraph wires beside the railway lines. The 
weaver birds are noted for the curious flask-shaped nests they 
make. Tailor birds are well-known for their habit of sewing two 
leaves together with a piece of grass as a receptacle for their nests. 
Munias are smaller birds than the robins and are familiar cage 
birds. Besides the parrots with green plumage and long tails which 
are well-known as cage birds throughout India, the hill maynd is a 
notable cage bird' with wonderful powers of imitating the human 
voice. Swallows and larks are usually winter visitors. These 
generally sing while on the wing. The woodpecker is a familiar 
bird in India. It has a long beak with the repeated strokes of which 
it removes bark and rotten wood from tree trunks exposing termi- 
tes, ants, beetles and their larvae on which it feeds. Amongst the 
barbets which are usually grass green in colour and frugivorous in 
habit, the most familiar form is the_ Indian coppersmith found in 
most Indian gardens and is known by its repeated metallic call like 
the tap of a small hammer on metal in a monotonous manner for 
some minutes. Some of the buntings which are common in winter 
are notorious for causing damage in cornfields. The blue jay or 
roller is one of the best known Indian birds seen in gardens and 
orchards. With the end of winter it rolls in the air and with 
harsh screams declares the advent of the spring. 

The kingfisher represents another group of common Indian 
birds. This has a beautifully coloured plumage. The hombill is 
a forest bird with a broad casque over the large curved beak. It is 
'reputed to be the Garu^a of the Hindus. The hoopoe is found 
throughout India and is noted for its loud hoots repeated two or 
three times. The common Indian swifts are famous as producers 
of edible nests. The nightjars are well-known for their peculiar 
notes in the earlier and later parts of the night resembling the 
strokes of a hammer on a plank. They are considered of evil omen. 

116 



FLORA AND FAUNA 


The cuckoos include several iorme and all lay their eggs in the 
nests of other birds. The call of the common Indian cuckoo is des- 
cribed as bou-kota-ko. The hawk cuckoo, commonly known as the 
brain-fever bird, is reputed for its monotonous call notes in the hot 
season, each repeated note being higher in the scale. The Indian 
koel is another familiar bird, frugivorous in habit and commonly 
found from March to July. Its call .consisting of two syllables is 
familiar to everyone in India. The male is glossy black and the 
female brown and spotted. Koel lays eggs in the nests of the crows. 

The owls are all nocturnal in habit. They feed on various 
small animals particularly the squirrels, rats, and mice which cause 
damage to crops and are therefore greatly beneficial to agriculture. 
It is probably for this reason that the owl is associated with Lakshmi 
— the goddess of wealth. 

Indian birds of prey include the vultures, the different forms of 
eagle, the various kites, the falcons, the hawks, the sikra, the 
buzzard, etc., usually birds of larger sizes. 

The pigeons, including the Blue Rock pigeon and the doves, are 
common throughout India whereas the sand grouse is common in 
open sandy tracts feeding on the ground. 

The game birds in India include a variety of forms. Those 
living on land include the pea and jungle fowls, the pheasants, 
partridges, quails, etc. The pea fowls are famous for their splendidly 
coloured plumage and peculiar habit of being noisy at the approach 
of rain. The red jungle fowl is essentially a forest bird and is 
regarded as the ancestor of all domesticated poultry. The common 
quail is well-known as a bird for sport, a favourite delicacy for the 
table and a cage bird for fighting. The common grey partridges 
are usually captured with decoy birds and are favourite cage birds. 
Morning and evening the wild ringing notes of tit-ee-roo of these 
birds are amongst the familiar bird sounds of India. 

Of the aquatic game birds the moorhen is widely distributed. 
Another one is the familiar water cock or Kora. This is often tamed 
for fighting. Others include the Jacana and the snipes. 

Amongst the cranes, the well-known form is the Sarus crane. 
The gulls are generally found in sea coasts but also occur along with 
the terns about inland waters. ’The spotted-billed pelican is purely 
a water bird seldom seen on land. Other familiar aquatic birds 
are the common cormorants and the snake birds. The brown 
dipper is an aquatic bird characteristic of the hill streams of the 
Himalayas. 

Ibises, storks, herons, and spoonbills constitute a well-known 
group of Indian birds. 

Other notable birds living about well- watered regions include 
the ducks, the pochard, and the grebes. The Brahminy ducks com- 
monly known as chakha and chakhi are found in pairs. 

117 

V.A.— S 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Reptiles. — ’The. crocodiles ond l,he snakes are the most notable 
animals amongst the reptiles, which also include the lizards, and 
the tortoises and turtles. The crocodiles which are of particular in- 
terest as attacking human beings are represented by the freshwater 
broad-snouted form known as the mugger and by the estuarine 
crocodile. Crocodiles are often 'hunted for their skin which 
fetches a high price. Besides these, one finds the gharial — ^a purely 
fish-eating river crocodile. 

The forms of land tortoises in India are few in number. The 
shells of these are prettily marked. The freshwater tortoises are 
herbivorous and ediDle. Of the turtles, the fresnwater forms are 
carnivorous and aggressive. The carapace in these is covered by 
a soft skin. 

The lizards in India are remarkably numerous. These include 
geckos, chameleons, skinks, monitors, etc. The chameleons are com- 
mon m the forest region of peninsular India. These are well known 
for their capacity to change colour. The skin of the monitor or 
varanus is in great demand and there is a considerable trade in 
varanus skin. 

The snakes in India have attracted much attention because of 
the large number of deaths amongst human beings and domesti- 
cated animals caused by bites of poisonous ones. India is the only 
country in the world where almost all the forms of known snakes 
occur. The worm-like subterranean typhlops are the smallest 
known snakes. The largest living snakes found in India are the 
pythons and boas. The common non-poisonous snakes are the 
rat snakes or dhaman, the carpet snakes, the grass snakes, and the 
water snakes. Amongst the venomous snakes in India the com- 
monest form is the cobra with the hood unmarked or marked either 
with a single large ocellus or with twp ocelli connected together by 
a curved line. There is also a black variety of cobra. Another 
deadly poisonous snake is the krait. This includes the banded ones 
with alternate bands of black and yellow. The large-sized king 
cobra is known to be extremely fierce and aggressive. The other 
poisonous snakes in India are the various forms of vipers. These 
have broad flat heads and are withopt hoods. 

Amongst the snakes .two forms deserve special mention. The 
tree or whip snake is a beautiful slender snake usually of green 
colour frequently seen in trees, bushes, and creepers twined round 
■^he stems. Another one is the beautifully coloured kalnagini. 
Though its name implies its deadly venomous character, it is in 
fact a non-poisonous snake and is frequently reared as a favourite 
pet. The so-called double-headed snake carried by snake charmers 
has a blunt tail which is occasionally manipulated and furnished 
with glass eyes to assist in the delusion. 

The Bofracfcians.-^The frogs and toads representing the tailless 

11 ^ 



FLORA AND FAUNA 


batrachians are common throughout Iijdia in ponds, streams, and ail 
damp places. Ol tne tailed bairacnians only tne Indian salamander 
IS luuna in inaia. Tne apooious lorrns include tne worm-iiKe 
borrowers. 

h'isnei >. — India is remarkable for its abundant fish fauna which 
accounts lor the large section of. its population depending on fishes 
as the staple protein diet. The fishes exhibit a considerable diver- 
sity in their structure and habits due* to the great variety of habi- 
tats in which they live. Besides living in inland rivers, streams, 
ponds, and marshes, they are found in the estuaries as also in the 
coastal regions and open seas. The marine forms occasionally 
migrate upward into the estuarine waters and similarly certain 
fluviatile forms pass down into the estuarine waters. Many fishes 
behave as larvaecidal agents. Use of such fishes against the growth 
of mosquito larvae plays an important role in the control of malaria 
— one of the prevalent diseases in India. 

Amongst the cartilaginous fishes, which abound in Indian seas, 
some of the sharks and rays occasionally ascend large tidal rivers. 
The high nutritive value of the shark liver oil has opened up an 
exceedingly important trade in the, fishing of sharks. The dried 
fins of both sharks and rays are exported to China while the flesh 
of some forms is regarded as a delicacy by certain people, chiefly of 
the poorer classes. 

Amongst the bony fishes the most important are the carp. 
These are inhabitants of freshwater and many of them, particularly 
the major carp, bring high prices as edible fishes. Smaller carp 
are found in rivers and streams in large numbers. The scaleless 
cat fishes are well represented in India. Amongst the Indian 
herrings which include several coastal and estuarine fishes, the 
most important fish is the hilsa, the flesh of which is highly flavour- 
ed. Amongst the perch which occur in India in fairly large numbers, 
the most valuable and largely used food fish is the hhekti of Bengal 
which grows to a weight of 200 pounds. Others, which are reputed 
as good edible fishes, include the freshwater forms such as nandus, 
the estuarine or coastal forms such as the mango-fish, the mackerels, 
pomfrets, tunny, and the mullets. The notopterid chitals represent 
a well-known group of very edmpressed fishes. They are highly 
prized as good edible fishes due to the fich content of fat. Re- 
markable in India is the occurrence of the air-breathing fishes in- 
cluding the snake-headed fishes, the climbing perch, the scaleless 
fishes such as singhee and magur and the snake-like cunchia. These* 
are found in every region where there is accumulation of water. 
There are several forms of flat fish in Indi^. In the hill streams the 
sucker fishes occur. The globe fishes, pipe fishes, and the sea horses 
are a few other interesting forms found in the e.stuarine and coastal 
regions. Peculiar fishes of the estuaries and mud flats of the coastal 

119 



THE VEDIC AGE 


region are the mud skippers. The flying fish which inhabit the 
open seas are common about India. 

Lower Chordates . — The lower chordates, including the balano- 
glossus, the sea-squirt, and the anr^phioxus are not uncommon in the 
seas around the coast of India. 

2. The Invertebrates 

The inverieorate group 'comprising the less-known forms of 
animal life is in no way less important than the vertebrate one not 
less remarKabJe in variety and numbers. Many invertebrate ani- 
mals are directly benehcial to man wnereas many others are harm- 
ful, injurious, and cause extensive damage to life and properly. 
Many invertebrate animals provide articles used for commercial 
purposes and on these are based various industries of man. The 
invertebrates constitute an enormously large section of animals 
and only a few of the more important lorms of the diiferent groups 
are mentioned below in order to complete this sketch of the fauna 
of India. 

The molluscs or shelled animals are well represented in India. 
They arc found in estuaries, in fresh waters, in coastal waters as 
well as in the open seas around. The bivalved mussels as well as 
various forms of snails, including the apple snails, are found in 
ponds. Many gastropods of both shelled and naked varieties and 
the squids, cuttle fishes, octopus, and nautilus are inhabitants of 
the seas. The gastropod shells conunonly known as cowries arc 
reputed for their use in the past as exchange money. The blowing 
of chanks or conches is associated with sacred ceremonies and 
there has developed a good trade in the way of preparing bangles 
from chank for the women folk of India. The molluscan shells 
provide materials for road construction and are used in the prepa- 
ration of lime. The oysters are used as articles of food and provide 
the source for the development of pearls. The pearl oysters are 
found in the coastal seas. Pearl fishing was a highly developed in- 
dustry in ancient India and there is a great possibility of this trade 
in future. 

The arthropods forming the largest group of animals are well re- 
presented. Various forms of prawns, shrimps, lobsters, different types 
of crabs and the numerous small crustaceans occur in fresh waters, 
in estuaries, on sandy beaches, and in the seas. Amongst insects, 
in India are found the various forms of ants, wasps, hornets, honey 
bees, the cockroaches, white ants, numerous forms of butterflies 
and moths, the glow worms, mosquitoes of different types, locusts, 
grasshoppers, dragon flies, various forms of beetles, fleas, etc. Some 
predatory insects such as the praying mantis are beneficial by feed- 
ing upon injurious forms. ITie honey bee is of great benefit as 
producer of honey and wax. Some of the mosquitoes, certain flies 

120 



FLORA AND FAUNA 


and the fleas, are definitely harmful^ and injurious and they act 
as transmitters of diseases and agents in spreading sources of in- 
fection. The locusts are the most well known among those which 
cause extensive damage to crops,* whereas the silk moths • and the 
lac insects are but two instances where these produce valuable in- 
dustrial and commercial materials. In India, where there is ah 
abundance of vegetation, the insects, particularly the butterflies, 
play an important role in bringing about pollination and the dispersal 
of seeds. Peripatus — a form intermediate between the segmented 
animals and the arthropoda — is found in the forests of the hilly 
tracts of Assam. The centipedes and millipedes are common 
throughout India, The scorpions and spiders are represented by 
various forms. In the coastal seas of India the king crab is found 
in fairly large numbers. 

Echinoderms, or the groups of animals including the star fishes, 
the various urchins, etc., are all marine and found in the seas around 
the coasts. Of the segmented animals, the earthworms and the 
leeches of various types, including the large-sized cattle leech, are 
found all over India. The burrowing segmented form known as 
the nereis is found in the shallow coastal seas. Sponges occur 
chiefly in the seas but freshwater sponges are not uncommon in 
inland waters such as ponds. The coelenterates occur in abundance 
in the seas surrounding the Indian peninsula. These include the 
medusae, the jelly fishes, the sea anemones, etc. The skeleton, 
which is present in many of these, especially of the sea anemones, 
forms the different types of beautiful coloured corals including the 
precious red corals. The worms are represented by the round worms 
and by the flat worms, including the various tape worms. Most 
of these are parasitic on other animals, especially the vertebrates, 
and pathogenic, causing diseases. Various wheel animalculae occur 
in ponds and other freshwater regions. The protozoa or the uni- 
cellular animals include a large number of forms. Some of these 
such as the malarial parasite, the leishmania, the entamoeba, cause 
serious diseases in human beings and often bring about the death 
of the victim. Others, such as trvDanosoma, babesia, coccidia. cause 
diseases of domesticated cattle and fowl and thus lead to huge losses 
of property. There are numerous free-living forms and also many 
parasitic forms which are however not pathogenic. 


1. Introductory Essay to the Flora Indica, p. 91. 


121 




BOOK TWO 


THE PREHISTORIC AGE 




CHAPTER VII 


PALAEOLITHIC, NEOLITHIC AND COPPER AGES 

I. PALAEOLITHIC AGE 

We have comparatively very scarrty data on Early Man and his 
environment. Surface finds from the Punjab, Rajputana, Gujarat, 
Central India, Central Provinces, Karnatak, Mysore, South India. 
Bihar, Assam, and Bengal testify to the widespread existence of 
man who fashioned rough stone implements mainly of quartzite.^ 
These were similar in shape and make to those known to be palaeo- 
lithic tools in Europe, but as in a majority of cases their stratigra- 
phic relation was not known, they could not be assigned to a definite 
geological age. Recent researches have, however, contributed ma- 
terially to our knowledge of Early Man in three or four provinces 
of India. 

We begin with the Punjab. Except for the fact that it was 
one of the earliest homes of the Aryans, nothing definite was known 
about its first settlers, prior to the 'glacio-archaeologic work of the 
Yale-Cambridge expedition in 1935.^ It is now more or less esta- 
blished that Early Man first entered the foothills of the North-West 
Punjab, the area traversed by the Soan, Haro, and other rivers 
within the Indus-Jhelum Doab, and comprised within the Rawalpindi 
and Attock districts of the Punjab and Jammu in Kashmir State, at 
the end of the First Inter-Glacial Period and the beginning of the 
Second Ice Age in the south-west Himalayas. Human existence is 
testified to by the presence of large flakes which are found embedded 
in fan-shaped boulder gravels of this period (Til in the Siwalik 
foothills and plains in North-West Punjab. Punch, and Jammu. 

I. First Inter. Glacial Age 

Though the earliest implements of man have come from the 
immediately succeeding stratum, viz. the Boulder Conglomerate 
zone of the second glacial epoch, it would seem that man had ac- 
tually inhabited the area almost, at the end of the First Inter-Glacial 
stage. The conditions for existence were, not particularly favour- 
able either for mammals or men in the Second Ice Age, to the first 
phase of which the Boulder Conglomerate stratum is assigned. The 
climate was not only colder and stormier, but the rainfall was 
heavier than today, as the deeply stained gravels and implements 
show. In fact only a few rolled bones of bovoids and proboscideans 
are found in this deposit. 

So far implements have been found in the Boulder Conglome- 
rate at five sites. Three of these — Kallar, Chaomukh, and Malak- 

125 



THE VEDIC AGE 


pur — are in the valley of the Jhelum and its tributaries, the fourth 
Bite is near Adial on the Sohan (Soan), and the fifth on the Tawi, 
a tributary of the Chenab near Jammu. 

All the implements are made of quartzite and are in a worn 
condition. The upper surface is usually unflaked except for one 
or two small irregular scars. The under surface, having flat bulbs, 
but prominent cones, must be the primary flaked surface and has a 
large plain, unfaceted striking platform at angles varying from 100 
degrees to 125 degrees. No retouch is visible except on one find 
from Kallar. The edges are broken, whether by use or naturally 
cannot be said.® 

Typologically as well as stratigraphically this earliest Punjab 
industry differs from the rest and hence it is called the Pre-Soan 
industry, to distinguish it from the later industry most of whose sites 
are on the Soan. 

2. Second Inter-Glacial Age and Early Soan Industry 

The Soan itself has two distinct groups. The early Soan 
and late Soan. Tools of the former group are found in Terraces 
To and Ti and later gravels mostly along the Indus. These have 
been observed at Khushalgarh, Makhad and Injra and at Gariala 
on the Haro river south-east of Attock. 

Geologically these terraces are assignable to the Second Inter- 
Glacial Stage. This interval is believed to be very long, when the 
climate was drier, but owing to continued uplift of the Pir Pan j el 
range, as evidenced by the tilted plains near Chaomukh and Jammu, 
there was great erosion. This may have destroyed the evidence 
of the rich contemporary fossil fauna without which man, whose 
existence is revealed by numerous sites, could not have lived in the 
area. 

Unlike the Pre-Soan tools, the early Soan tools are made from 
varieties of fine-grained quartzite as well as fine smooth greenish- 
grey Panjal trap. 

Patination and the state of wear divide these tools into three 
groups, which may be called A, B, C. Group A is the earliest and 
is heavily patinated, deep brown or purple and much rolled. Group 
B is deeply patinated like A but unworn, and Group C is less pati- 
nated and fairly fresh. 

j Among all these groups there are pebble tools, scrapers and 
flakes, the first-named predominating.; t There is evidence of typo- 
logic development towards smaller and neater forms, but it does 
not synchronize with the stratigraphic evidence. 

The pebble tools are all prepared from smooth, rounded rolled 
pebbles and small boulders. These, when further subdivided, give 
us (a) flat-based, and (b) rounded, pebble tools. 

True discoidal cores often with a patch of cortex in the centre 

126 



PALAEOUTHIC, NEOLITHIC AND COPPER AGES 

of one or both surfaces are also found in this group. These cores 
are similar to the Clactonian and* early Levalloisian forms. 

There are two kinds of flakes. The first has a high-angled plain 
platform and, though similar to -the Early Soan B, is neater and 
better and more primarily flaked. In the second kind^ much smaller, 
the angle is low and the platform unfaceted. While there is evi- 
dence of use, on these tools there is very little of secondary flaking. 

The Soan valley has also yielded* other types of tools, probably 
of the Second Inter-Glacial Age, though they are rolled and occur 
in the gravels of the Third Glacial phase. These tools comprise 
hand-axes, cores and flakes, and a couple of crude cleavers. Typo- 
logically, very much rolled hand-axes are assigned to the Abbe- 
villian or Lower Acheulian, and the less rolled, with more regular 
outline and neater step flaking, to the middle Acheulian. 

Mention must be made of the few flakes which show typical 
Acheulian technique with plain platforms and parallel primary 
flaking, and one or two showing signs of crude retouching. 

3. Third Ice Age and Late Soan Industry 

Between the Early Soan and Late Soan industries intervened 
the Third Ice Age, and the latter ar'e assigned to this period. During 
this glaciation which was comparatively less extensive, a vast amount 
of loessic (wind-borne) silt was deposited over the Potwar, a pheno* 
menon which is attributed to the interaction of several factors: 
accumulated silt owing to inundation, erosion^ mountain glaciation, 
and violent dust storms. Since the Late Soan tools come from the 
basal Potwar gravel and loess which is attributed to the Third Ice 
Age, it is suggested that Early Man had witnessed the beginning of 
these dust-storms in the Punjab where they are an annual feature 
in the summer nowadays. 

Few fossils have been found in these huge loessic deposits.*^ 
But it is suggested that vegetation must have been more abundant 
in plains and the fauna may have been similar to that of the Nar- 
mada valley, where remains of horse, buffalo, straight-tusked ele- 
phant, and hippopotanius were discovered in association with Early 
Palaeolithic tools. However, the Potwar loess (perhaps its upper 
horizon! has yielded twelve types of fossil invertebrates, molluscs 
(fresh water and land) and gastropods. . 

The Late Soan industry'' is stratigraphically and typologically 
divisible into two groups. In Late Soan A some specimens are 
worn. Both pebble tools and flake and core tools occur, but tlje 
latter outnumber the former. 

Among pebble tools, a form which appears late in Early Soan, 
viz. a *^side scraper”-like implement, mafle on a roughly oval pebble, 
with cortexed butt on one side, and flaking along the opposite side, 
and a wavy straight or convex edge is common. 

tr; 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Three other earlier forms are also found. But a new type is 
seen in a form where a small’ ovoid pebble is intentionally broken 
at an oblique angle to produce a flat base. Two or more flakes are 
struck upwards from the under-surface on the side that makes an 
acute angle with the bases. Some specimens exhibit retouch on the 
edge. 

There are many forms of cores. Flakes are of two types: 
(1) simple, and (2) with retouched edges. 

Late Scan B tools are found in a deposit of wind-borne silt 
above the gravel of the Third Glacial Age. They are fresh and 
unworn. 

Mainly two types of cores occur, one of which was already 
noticed in Late Soan A. 

Flakes again are generally of the Levalloisian type. They are 
mostly blades or elongated flakes, and a few triangular or oval. 

4. Third Inter-Glacial Age: Channtra Industry 

So far the only tools met with were pebble tools and flakes. 
But at a few sites, particularly at Chauntra on the Soan river, some 
totally different kinds of tools^ were chiselled out from a gravel 
which may be of the Third Inter-Glacial Age. This was again a 
period of stream erosion, as a result of which the river beds were 
deepened, and lakes emptied. Mountain uplift also must have 
taken place. However, as in earlier stages, there are few evidences 
of loessic deposits. 

5. Fourth Ice Age Tools 

Pebble tools and flakes found at Dhok Pathan near Pindi Gheb 
on the Sil river, a tributary of the Soan, are supposed to be later, 
possibly of the Fourth Glacial Age. The tools which include pebble 
tools, cores and unfaceted flakes are '‘regarded as representing 
a late, localized industry of peculiar facies, showing marked simi- 
larities, in a greatly developed form, to the Early Soan industries 
of the Indus region.” 

Early Man thus seems to have inhabited the Punjab from the 
end of the First Inter-Glacial period onwards right through the 
succeeding three glacial and two inter-glacial periods. As no human 
remains have been found along with the implements, it is impossible 
to say whether the same race witnessc^d such great climatical changes, 
and ultimately produced the fine hand-axe and flake industry noticed 
at Chauntra, or other races came at different periods, or the old 
and new races lived together. 

The evidence detailed before indicates that pebble and flake 
industries developed together in the same area alongside the Ab- 
bevillian- Acheulian hand-axe industries. In the former pebble 
tools become smaller and neater, and the flakes of Clactonian facies 

128 



PALAEOUTHIC, NEOUTHIC AND COPPER AGES 

— crude, unl’aceted and devoid of intentional primary fiaKing — are 
later associated with neater forms such as Levalxoisian type and have 
regular and convergent primary flaking, faceted platforms, and fine 
retouching, if any. 

The hand-axe industry is for the first time associated with the 
Soan flake and pebble industry at Chauntra, and here aione it rea- 
ches its acme, tlowering into a fine late Acheulian type. 

On the basis of this contact, foi‘ which the evidence is so far 
slight, De Terra has said that Early Man entered the Punjab together 
with his hand-axe industry from the south. 

After the Punjab comes Rajputana where stray, mostly surface 
finds have been made. The few Rajputana specimens come from 
Jaipur, Bundi, and Indargarh.® These are generally of quartzite, 
but reddish-brown sandstone accounts for one ^specimen. Among 
the tools two types of hand-axes are visible. One is pointed ovate 
and the other is ovoid. It is roughly chipped and called “Boucher’' 
by Coggin Brown. 

Rajputana leads us to Gujarat. Here, as elsewhere, only surface 
finds were made in the last century. But since the discoverer — 
Bruce Foote — had given good clues together with an excellent 
study of the stratigraphy of the Sabarmati valley, the task of obtain- 
ing stratigraphical evidence was comparatively easy. And it was 
obtained by the First Gujarat Pre-historic Expedition.^ During its 
survey of the middle reaches of the Sabarmati, a distance of over 
100 miles from Hadol in the north to Delwad in the south, five more 
palaeolithic sites were discovered. Of these the most important 
were Hadol, Pedhamli, and Ghadhara; of lesser importance Phu- 
dera, Aglod, Hirpura, Kot, and Warsora. 

The implements are mostly fresh and a few only rolled or semi- 
rolled, with worn-out edges and flake scars. Typologically they 
comprise: (1) hand-axes (including sub-types), (2) cleavers, (3) 

scrapers, (4) flakes, and (5) pebble tools. 

No clear evidence of sequence corresponding to the succession 
of the three or two main phases of the old alluvium, viz. the gravel 
conglomerate and the reddish silt, is visible in the industry. For 
the two main typologic features of the industry, which from the 
predominant tool type has tQ be called hand-axe industry, are 
evident in practically all types of tools, from the lower stratum. 
Thus there are: 

(a) Tools with irregular line, rough ‘step’ flaking, and pebble 

cortex at the butt-end or over part of both the surfaces. * 

(b) Tools with regular outline, wavy edges, comparatively 
.smooth “step'' flaking and no pebble, cortex or the cortex patch 
at a definite place. 

While this is generally true, there are three specimens — two hand- 

P9 



THE VEDIC AGE 


axes, one pear-shaped, and the other very thin, perfectly symmetrical 
ovate, and an U-shaped cleaver — frdm the upper part of the reddish 
silt which are so fine as to suggest a late typologic evolution corres- 
ponding to the uppermost phase of the alluvium. 

Typologically these three varieties of hand-axes bear close 
resemblance to (i) the Abbevillian-Early Acheulian, (ii) the Middle 
Acheulian, and (iii) the Late Acheulian industries of Madras and 
the Punjab as well as those of Europe, and similar sequences observed 
in the Nile Valley and the rest of Africa. 

A site bearing similar cultural products was discovered by the 
expedition in the Orsang valll^y at Bahadarpur. Here the gravel is 
loose and uncemented and is approximately at a height of twenty- 
five feet from the present river bed, and underlies deposits of black 
cotton soil and brownish silt. The top of the gravel yielded a few 
finds of quartz and quartzite. Unlike the Sabarmati specimens, the 
majority of the Orsang tools are rolled or semi-rolled and a few only 
fresh. Typologically these comprise (a) hand-axes, ovate, and 
pear-shaped, (b) flakes, one of which is a definite blade, and (c) 
pebble tools. 

The Karjan, a tributary of the Orsang and Narmada, has also 
given a similar promise of the Old Stone Age culture. Here tools, 
hand-axes, U-shaped cleavers, of Vaal technique, beautiful discoids 
and pebble tools of trap have been found. 

We next proceed to the Upper Narmada Valley, where strati* 
graphical data for the existence of Early Man are available. Un- 
fortunately even now a complete idea of this stone industry cannot 
be formed, as the specimens found by the Yale-Cambridge Expedi- 
tion are not fully described. However, the expedition succeeded 
in establishing the relationship of a middle Pleistocene fauna with 
an early Palaeolithic industry, a relationship which was so far pre- 
sumed on the strength of a solitary tool — an ovate hand-axe from a 
site at Bhutara and fossil mammalian remains. Stratigraphic cor- 
relation is also attempted between the Punjab and the Central Indian 
Pleistocene on geologic and archaeological evidence.^’ 

Narmada Valley has given a glimpse of the various types of 
industries — Early and Late Soan and the Abbevillian and the Acheu- 
lian hand-axe-cleaver. At some localities there is a mixture of 
the different types, whereas at one locality near Narsinghpur the 
Late Soan seems to replace the Acheulian culture. De Terra, how- 
ever, would tentatively suggest that the Narmada “lower group re- 
presents the true Acheulian and early Soan, and the upper group the 
Late Soan Industry.” If this were really so, the two Narmada 
gravel groups could be correlated with the Terrace i, Terrace-, 
Terraces3-4 of the Punjab. Whether it was actually so or whether 
the various industries flourished simultaneously, the gravels belong- 

130 



PALAEOLITHIC, NEOLITHIC AND COPPEK AGES 

ing to one geologic age, can be determined only by further research 
and collection of fuller data. 

The rest of the evidence in Central India and the Central 
Provinces consists of surface finds collected in the last • century 
from Saugor, Damoh, Rewah, and Bundelkhand. ’ - In this region, 
which is the meeting-place of the three great geological formations', 
viz. the quartzite (which has principally developed on the west, 
in North Gujarat, and Rajputana), the sandstone (in Central India), 
and the trap (which extends from the Malwa plateau towards the 
south), tools of all these materials are found. Typologically the 
tools are similar to those of Rajputana and North Gujarat. 

Further east a few finds have been reported from Bengal, Bihar, 
and Orissa, from Paloncha, on the eastern outskirts of the Hydera- 
bad State, and from Hyderabad itself. So far Bengal had given 
few palaeoliths but recently a large number has been discovered at 
Kuliana, in Mayurbhanj State (Orissa). The tools are quartzite 
and include: 

(a) Pebble tools, some of which resemble crude hand-axes, and 
others cleavers. There are also choppers, ovate forms and awl-like 
pointed tools. 

(b) Core tools, both faces worked. 

South of the Vindhyas, after the Narmada Valley, the next 
important region is the Konkan coastal strip and the Deccan plateau. 
Little work was done in the latter, because of its peculiar geological 
formation. However, fossil fauna of the middle Pleistocene period 
was found at Mungi and Nandur Madhmeshwar in the Godavari 
valley. At the former site an agate flake was noticed in the same 
stratum. Following up these clues the present writer and his as- 
sociates have been carrying out a systematic survey of the valley. 
It has yielded small flakes, blades, and cores of agate, jasper, chalce- 
dony, bloodstone, and trap,^^ but no heavy tools like hand-axes or 
choppers. 

Rude stone implements have been reported from the vicinity 
of Bombay since 1880. Much of this early work is, however, mere 
surface collection and not well illustrated. Slight but important is 
the notice by Todd ’^ of Palaeolithic industries in the Salsette Island 
north of Bombay. Here at Borivli, Kandivli, and other suburbs he 
discovered tools comprising hand-axes, cleavers, flakes, blades, 
and microliths. It appears that hand-axes and cleavers were found 
only at Kandivli. Here no less than six strata were observe^. 
Scrapers, cores, and choppers were found in “Lower Clay” and 
over its “top,” forming the lowest stratum over the rock. Over- 
lying this clay there is a deposit of reddish-brown gravel. In it 
were found many implements of Chellean and Clactonian type, 
and on its top, implements of Clactonian type in mint condition, as 

131 



THE VEDIC AGE 


well as late Acheulian types. The Konkan, with its sequenct oi 
industries, thus promises xo be one of tne key areas for understand- 
ing the evolution of Stone Age cultures in vVestern India. 

It IS likely that similar early palaeolithic culture nourished in 
the region lower down, in Southern Konkan and eastwards above 
the Giidts in the Karnatak area, Foote found an extinct type of 
rhinoceros and hand-axes in the hard kankar cemented shingle bed 
of the Bennihalla, a tributary of the Malaprabha in the Dharwar 
district, and also in the shingle bed of the Malaprabha itself in the 
Bijapur district. These tools are large ovate hand-axes and cleavers 
of quartzite, very much resembling similar tools from the Konkan 
and the Sabarmati. 

Foote also found a few palaeoliths in the Mysore Karnatak. ' ' 
Some he found “scattered on the pale quartzite shingle bed capping 
the high ground south-eastward of the town of Kadur” and also 
at Nyamti, sixteen miles south of Shimoga; others from the lateritc 
debris near the villages of Nidaghatta and Lingadahalli south of 
Sakrapatna. Two of the latter are of white quartz, all the rest of 
quartzite. The quartzite specimens are mostly patinated. There 
are no cleavers, the hand-axes are of oval, ovoid and triangular types. 
Discs and discoids are also found. No palaeoliths have been report- 
ed further south on the Malabar coast. 

In contrast to. these scanty notices of palaeolithic finds on the 
west coast of India, the east coast area with the suitable material 
from the Eastern Ghats has proved very rich in these finds. Bar- 
ring the southern extremity, viz. the Tinnevelly district and some 
gaps from West Godavari district to Ganjam in the north, palaeo- 
liths have been found from most other districts, viz. Madura, 
Trichinopoly, North and South Arcot, Chingleput, Chitoor, Cud- 
dapah, Anantpur, Bellary, Nellore, Kurnool, Guntur, and Krishna, 
of the Madras Presidency. Of these North Arcot, Chingleput, 
Cuddapah, Bellary, and Kurnool districts yielded the largest 
number. 

In the Madura district the finds were collected “from a shingle 
bed in the alluvium of the Vaigai, on the left bank of the river, 
immediately north of Madura town”; in the Tanjore district from 
the “laterite deposit lying to the south-east of Vallam and south- 
west of Tanjore city”; in the Trichinopoly district “from the laterite 
forming the plateau east of Ninniyur, forty-five miles north-east of 
Trichinopoly town”; in the Bellary district “on the surface of the 
shingle fans lying along the foot of the copper mountain south of 
Bell ary town,” also from the Halakundi shingle fans and other 
sites: in the Cuddapah district from “thin spreads of lato- 
ritc gravel/' in Ray achoti ‘'Tdhik; in the North Arcot district “in 
connection with laterite gravels”; in the Chingleput district in the 
laterite conglomerate at various places; in the Nellore district “most- 

132 



PALAEOUraiC. NEOUTiilC AND COPPER AGES 

ly washed out of the laterite gravels jesting on the gneissie rocks”; 
in the Maneru valley; in the Kuxnool district “in the valley of the 
Khunder near Roodrar in lateritic gravels”; in the Guntur and 
Krishna districts “from the highlevel gravels’" at Ippalam and 
Oostapalli on the Krishna. 

The above review shows that the latei'ite beds in south-east 
India are implementiferous. But since Foote had not worked out 
the stratigraphy completely, nor indicated the typological relation 
between the finds from the laterite gravel and other gravels and 
the surface, the value of his large number of finds is mainly typo- 
logical and not so much cultural. 

This want has been to some extent supplied by Cammiade’s 
work in the Kurnool and Krishnaswami’s and Paterson’s work in 
the Chingleput district. Cammiade in collaboration with Burkitt 
has given a correlation of the sequence of industries and stratigraphy 
with that of climatic changes in south-east India. 

According to these authors the tools can be stratigraphically 
and typologically divided into four main groups which synchronize 
with two dry and two semi-humid periods, the first two alternating 
with two pluvial periods. Tools found in the laterite pebble bed 
in the Bhavnasi gravels at Krishnapuram (78 “ 73' and 15 40'), on 
the western entrance of the Atmakur-Dornala Pass, “in the derived 
quartzite pebble bed" on the Ralluvagu and Yerra-konda-Palem (79 
10-15' and 15"" 40-45') on the eastern entrance of the same pass, in 
*’the derived laterite” bed on the bank of the Sagileru. at Giddamr 
t78"' 55' and 15' 22-23') near the Nandikanama Pass^ and from the 
upper part of the laterite overlying the gneiss basal bed at Gundla 
Bhrameshvaram, a little to the south of the Krishna, constitute the 
earliest series comprising hand-axes (of quartzite) rather roughly 
flaked, slightly rolled, and stained with laterite; whereas tools 
from the superimposed layer of red alluvial clay at Krishnapuram 
constitute the second series comprising mostly flakes, and a few 
neatly made hand-axes (of quartzite, sandstone, and chalcedony). 
Tools of sex'ies three and four comprise microlith-like and microliths 
respectively. 

The work of Krishnaswami‘^ and Paterson^^ has still further 
advanced our knowledge of the ’palaeolithic industries in the Chin- 
gleput district. The former discovered tools in the pre-laterite 
Boulder Conglomerate at Vadamadurai, whereas the two together 
observed a system of four terraces in the Korttalai^^ar Valley, the 
laterite conglomerate of the Terrace Tu at Attirampakkam yielding; 
as it did to Foote, numerous palaeoliths, typologically similar to 
those from the main detrital laterite overlying the Boulder Conglo- 
merate at Vadamadurai. 

The technical stages of two series of tools from the Boulder 
Conglomerate have been described in European terminology as re- 

1331 

V.A.— 9 



THE VEDIC AGE 


presenting the Abbevillian and the earliest Acheulian; that of the 
tools from the laterite gravel as resembling the middle Acheulian; 
and that from the layer above laterite as “probably upper Acheulian. ' 

The hand-axes and cleavers from the Attirampakkam laterite 
are considered to be Late Acheulian or, according to Krishnaswami, 
Late Acheulian, Micoquian, and Levalloisian. The Madras 
Museum abounds in collections from other districts: Cuddapah, 
Nellore, Anantpur, and Kurnool. Of these the collections made 
by Manley^ ’ from Nellore and Drummond from Kurnool deserve 
mention. 

From the above review it would appear that practically every 
part of India except the great Indo-Gangetic plain has given traces 
of its hoary antiquity. But excepting a few areas, nowhere is the 
stratigraphical sequence of the Stone Age cultures worked out. 
Until this is made available, it would be hazardous to opine in what 
part of India Early Man originated, and what the exact relation^^ 
is either in time or between the Stone Age cultures above review- 
ed, The accepted geological antiquity of and the favourable 
climatic conditions on the eastern coast of South India, and the 
reported finds from the pre-laterite Boulder Conglomerate at Vada- 
madurai would, however, give ground for a view that Early Man 
in India originated in South India, and migrated towards the Pun- 
jab at the close of the First Ice Age. 

2. THE MESOLITHIC AGE 

The cultures which succeeded the Palaeolithic in Europe and 
certain parts of Africa exhibit certain definite features. On the 
correlation of thesp with stratigraphic sequence obtainable at a 
few sites, two main cultural stages have been recognized: (1) the 
Transitional or the Mesolithic; (2) the Neolithic. The old glacial 
conditions had more or less gone and Europe experienced a long 
dry spell. With the climatic changes the flora and fauna also 
changed, and most probably a new race of people entered Europe. 
Culturally, however, this new race was still in the hunting stage. 
It did not produce food. And above all the implements used were 
primarily of stone, though bone was also used. 

But the nature of these tools' is absolutely different. These 
are extremely small, about an inch or so in length. The technique 
of making them is also different. Hence they are called microliths 
or pygmy tools. Except a few Tardenoisian sites in Prance, and a 
few in England, most of these implements have been found from 
the surface, on loessic mounds, or in sandy areas. 

Such microliths have been found in practically the whole of 
India. Foote^^ noticed them from almost all the districts of South 
India, including Tinnevelly, Hyderabad State, Gujarat, Kathiawar, 
Central India, Central Provinces, and Chota Nagpur, whereas 

134 



PAIAKOUTHIC, NJbX;)LlTHlC AND COi^PEit AGiCS 

subsequent workers have discovered them in Cutch^*^ ana tne x^uu- 
ii^ut uniiKe tiUrope, these were au suriace collections, in 
the absence of staitigraphicai evidence or otner cultural oDjecis 
irom weii-conaucied excavations* it is not possible to assign tbb 
microlitns in all these areas to a mesolithic period^ in §ome instances 
microiiths appear in dolmens with iron implements; in others with 
pottery which can be dated to the fourth century B. C. >Thus in 
uilferent regions, according to their geographical situation and cul- 
tural development, microiiths have been in use as forming composite 
tools and weapons at widely different periods. These might extend 
from the mesolithic to historic times. 

Small but systematic excavations at the site of Brahmagiri (Chi- 
laldurg district, Mysore) and at Langhnaj (Mehsana Tdhik in Guja- 
rat) have produced evidence to show that at least at these two sites 
the microiiths might belong to the mesolithic cultural phase. 

At Brahmagiri both neoliths and microiiths appeared at the 
five-foot level, but later at eight feet only, microiiths were found.^^^^ 
So it is suggested that at this site, called Roppa after the nearest 
village, micro-neolithic culture, comparable to the Compignian of 
France, flourished. Whether it is so old in point of time cannot be 
determined, for it yet remains to be proved stratigraphically, as 
has been shown in Europe, that such cultures are post-Quaternary, 
and earlier than true Neolithic. 

Almost similar is the case with notices of microlithic cultures 
in the rock-shelters in the Mahadeo Hills at Panchmarhi^^ and at 
Jchali^® near Naushahra in the Punjab. At the latter site micro- 
iiths were found in association with neolithic-like pottery and 
skeletal remains of Homo sapiens, which were in very friable condi- 
tion. At the former site pottery was found in the first few inches, but 
below it, a foot deeper, there was no pottery at all. Dr. Hunter who 
conducted the excavation thought the culture to be pre-Neolithic, 
whereas on the evidence of paintings on the rock, it is surmised 
that the culture cannot be older than the second century B.C. It 
must be said that Major Gordon, whose study of the paintings is 
indeed scholarly, has not pointed out any stratigraphical or cultural 
relationship between the paintings and the microiiths. It is quite 
possible that potsherds, which Dr. Hunter found on the surface, be- 
long to the earliest or some phase of the paintings, but that there is 
no connection between the paintings and microiiths,. 

Excavations in the loessic mounds at Langhnaj,""^ as well as at 
Hirpura in Northern Gujarat, have recently brought to light a rich* 
microlithic culture. Potsherds usually occur up to the first three 
feet from the surface, a,long with mircrojiths and a few fossilized 
(calcified) remains of animals. Deeper, up to six to seven feet, only 
microiiths, in association with numerous bone splinters, including 
a number of large bones of animals (such as ribs, shoulder blades, 

135 



THE VEDIC AGE 


astragali!, humerus, tibia, teeth, and parts of jaw, fish vertebrae, 
skeletons of lizards, and other many hitherto unidentified remains! 
together with seven human skeletons (one intact, and the rest more 
or less incomplete) have been found. 

From the total absence of metals, relative rarity of pottery, 
and the almost complete calcification of human and animal remains 
(which is by the way remarkable when compared with similar finds 
so far made in India from historic and proto-historic sites, and 
Sub-Recent deposits in the Potwar loess) it is probable that the 
Gujarat microlithic culture is of considerable antiquity. 

Racially these human skeletons show Hamitic Negroid charac- 
teristics, and hence might have been of people akin to those in 
North-East Africa and also proto-Egyptians. These folk lived on 
small hillocks and drew their water supply from the hillock-girt in- 
undation lakes. They were primarily hunters and subsisted on such 
game as the cow, buffalo, wild horse, ox, sheep, goat, rats, fish, and 
crocodile. They must have used jungle fruits and other forest 
products, but so far we have not found any remains of these in the 
shape of stones, etc. 

The crouching posture in which the skeletons have been found 
leaves no doubt that they were deliberately buried, with a definite 
idea of orientation. Out of seven skeletons four have their head 
facing the west, and the remaining three, one of which is that of a 
young woman, have their head facing the east. Large stones — peb- 
bles of quartzite and portions of querns of sandstones — had some- 
thing to do with the burial ceremony. For these are usually found 
near the head of the skeletons. The dog also must have played an 
important part in the life of these people, as so far two almost 
complete skeletons have been found near the human remains, where- 
as the rest of the animal remains consist of isolated fragments only. 

\yhatever the age or ages to which the microliths in India be 
ultimately assigned as a result of further research, the present 
collections, particularly those made in Gujarat, can be typologically 
classified in the following groups, each having several varieties or 
sub-divisions: 

(i) Rectangular blades. 

(ii) Crescent blades. These alre primarily one-edged, the back 
side being made purposely blunt. 

(iii) Scrapers. These are mostly thin, flat pieces with one side 
more sloping than the rest and edged. 

(vi) Points. 

(v) Cores. 

3. TKE NEOLITHIC AGE 

The neolithic cultural phase in India is so far indicated by 
one of its main constituents, namely, stone tools. These, unlike 

136 



PALAEOUTHIC. NEOLITHIC AND COPPER AGES 

those of the earlier cultures, bear unmistakable signs of polish, either 
all over the tools, or at the butt-’end and the working end, or only 
at the working end. The material is also different. While the 
palaeolithic man seems to have preferred fine-grained quartzite, the 
mesolithic chalcedony,' and other silicate varieties such as jasper, 
chert, and bloodstone, the man of this age liked to fashion his tools 
out of fine-grained dark-green trap, though there are examples of 
diorite, basalt^ slate, chlorite schist, indurated shale, gneiss, sand- 
stone, and quartzite. 

How, when and by whom was this culture introduced, and the 
earlier replaced, cannot be said for want of suitable data. Polished 
stone implements have a very wide distribution. They have been 
found in several districts of South India, but particularly Bellary, 
Mysore and Hyderabad State, Central India, Central Provinces, Bun- 
delkhand, Gujarat, Kashmir, West Bengal, Chota Nagpur and Orissa. 
Like the microliths, these tools have also been found in funerary 
monuments along with iron objects. So they seem to have gone 
over well into Iron Age and early historic periods. 

However, as in the case of microliths, excavations at two or 
three sites in India have shown that these polished stone implements 
or drilled hammer stones antedate the Iron Age. The first site is 
Brahmagiri, mentioned above. Here the neoliths stratigraphically 
lie below the early Iron Age and historical cultures, and above the 
microliths. 

At Langhnaj, again, a large pierced hammer stone of quartzite 
with splayed hole from either side, and the front part of a polished 
celt have been found.^’ The celt has a broad rounded point 
and smooth, polished, biconvex surfaces; the other end is broken. 
The splayed holes and the absence of vertical drilling in stone tools, 
particularly liammer stones, are regarded a characteristic of the 
Neolithic Age in Europe, while the second implement recalls similar 
implements of neolithic type from South India and Bengal. Typo- 
logically these would be the only neolithic tools from Gujarat. 
For the large majority, classified by Foote as neoliths, are really 
microliths. And if other sites yield results similar to those obtained 
so far from Langhnaj, then the Gujarat microlithic culture will 
have to be assigned to a mesoliftiic period. 

Excavating a megalithic monument at Burzahom in Kashmir 
De Terra found neolithic celts below a chalcolithic (?) layer in 
post-glacial loess associated with hard grey hand-made pottery 
decorated with incised designs.®^ 

The neolithic celts in India which have been so far illustrated®® 
may be classified into the following types: . 

(1) Triangular outline with rounded comers, slightly convex 
working edge, the sides converging into a pointed but 

137 



THE VEDIC AGE 


round butt end (Coggin Brown, PI. V. 1, 9, 13, 15, 19) polished 
all over on both sides (PL‘ VI. 1, 4, 8, 11, 14; VII. 2, 3, 4). 

(2) Cylindrical or elongated oval, convex edge, sides converg- 
• ing into a pointed butt’ end, biconvex sides^ polished al! 

over on both sides (PI. V. 5, 8, 10; VI. 10, 3). 

(3) Broad edge, with rounded corners, sides slightly tapering 
but ending in a broad convex butt end, surfaces unpolished 
(PI. V. 20). 

(4) Oval and ovate, one end convex^ the other pointed, polished 
all over (PI. VU. 5). 

(5) Chisel-like triangular, almost straight edged sides converg- 
ing into a rounded point (PI. VII. 1; IX. 6). 

(6) Long, thin, slight convex edge, tapering sides, but broad 
straight butt. 

(7) Convex edge, slightly tapering sides. 

(8) Thin and pointed, rounded sides, broad butt polished all 
over (PI. IX. 12). 

Hammer stones: 

I. Round without any hole. 

II. Round or oval (PI. VI. 7) with a hole in the middle splayed 
from both sides IPl. VI. 9; VIT. 6). 

The above gives a very rough and tentative idea of neolithic 
tools in India. It needs to be improved by a scientific classifica- 
tion of the collections in the Indian Museum, Calcutta, and Govern- 
ment Museum. Madras, and in the museums at Mysore and Hydera- 
bad. 

Much has been said about neolithic culture. According to some 
scholars the people of this age understood the use of fire, made pot 
tery, cultivated grain and domesticated animals. But as these 
theories are based on surface finds alone, no definite conclusions are 
possible until positive evidence is furnished by further excavations. 
The same remark applies to the views of those who would refer 
to this age the cinder-mounds, rude drawings in caves, as well as 
the so-called cup-marks or “small hollowed depressions in the rocks/’ 
sometimes regarded as a system of writing.^"^ It is highly ques- 
tionable whether all the.se really belonged to the Neolithic Age, and 
hence no detailed account has been given of them. 

4. THE COPPER AND BRONZE AGE 

When metals began to be used is very difficult to say in the ab- 
sence of stratigraphic sequence of cultures, and for want of unanimity 
of opinion on the age of the fligveda and later texts which refer to a 
metal — ay as — interpreted either as copper or iron. Until the dis- 
covery of the Indus Culture (which is treated in detail in Chapter 
IX) the only evidence fot the presumption of a Copper Age in India 

138 



PAI^EOUTHIC, NEOUTHIC AND COPPER AGE(S 

consisted of surface finds, mostly from the Ganges- Jumna Do4b* 
Recently some finds have been made* at Kallur in the Hyderabad 
State and a few copper and bronze weapons, tools, and vessels have 
been found in dolmens and other .sepulchral monuments from Nag- 
pur, Hyderabad, Madura and Mysore. 

In spite of a few stray finds of copper or bronze ^Veapons, tools, 
and vessels from South India, it would appear that Copper or Bronze 
Age cultures principally flourished in North India, in the great 
alluvial plains, stretching from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Ben- 
gal. And it is traces of these that off and on turn up in the Ganges- 
Jumna Doab, the Punjab, and Sind.^ ' 

The raw materials — copper — for the tools could be had, as has 
been shown recently by Piggott, from the copper ore deposits in 
Rajputana and Chota Nagpur, and Singhbhum in Bihar, and Orissa: 
The finds from several hoards, the largest of which was from Gun- 
geria, consist of tools, weapons and ornaments, such as axes, swords, 
daggers, harpoons, and rings. 

Excluding the solitary socketed axe-edge from the upper levels 
of Mohenjo-daro, all the axes so far found are “variations of the 
most primitive form of metal axe, called usually ‘the flat axe* or 
‘blade axe’.* These have been grouped into five classes by Piggott®® 
according as they have parallel or tapering sides, straight or round- 
ed butt, straight or convex cutting edge and are shouldered, elon- 
gated, etc. 

All the swords found in the hoards from the Ganges valley, 
notably from Fatehgarh, near Farrukhabad, as well as at Kallur in 
the Hyderabad State, are practically of one type. The hilt and 
blade are cast in one mould. The blade is leaf-shaped, having a 
slight but distinct mid-rib. The hilt has antennae. 

So far there is a single example of a dagger from an unknown 
locality. It is of the same type as the sword. The hilt and blade 
are of one cast; the blade leaf-shaped and ribbed, the hilt has a 
common butt, with forth- jutting angle. 

The harpoons provide a most interesting evolutionary series. 
Two or three main types are distinguished. 

(a) The most primitive form has a rough blade with bilateral 
barbs, slight mid rib, a simple t^mg with one or more holes below 
the lowest pair of barbs. 

(h) More advanced form in which the blade becomes a sepa- 
rate element, the barbs are placed below it, but still resemble in 
shape those of type a. ^ 

(c) The blade is now leaf-shaped, and the barbs curved, and 
twice the size of the other examples. 

Besides these there are a few copper '‘riugs,’* a couole of bent 
tools, with a “celt-like” flat and “human-ftgure-like” objects, and 
stylized lunate axe or lance-heads.®*^ 

m 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Whence and how did these copper or bronze weapons come to 
the Ganges valley? A definite answer cannot be given but it is 
suggested by Heine-Geldern^^ that the prototypes of the simple celt- 
like axes, as well as the various types of swords, daggers, and har- 
poons can be traced back, through Iran, to the Caucasus and Danube 
valley, where these tool types existed at least before 1200 B.C. 
Hence he is of the opinion that in these stray copper or bronze ob- 
jects, we have traces of the migration route of the Vedic Aryans 
Piggott is also inclined to the same opinion, though he would as- 
cribe the harpoons, a product of riverine culture, to a group of food- 
gathering tribes who, living primarily on fishing, acquired a know- 
ledge of metal working from some centre of higher culture and 
transformed their characteristic hunting weapons accordingly. 
How this culture-contact could have taken place has been shown 
by Heine-Geldern, who thinks that the forepart of the most ad- 
vanced harpoons of the Ganges valley may have been influenced 
by the javelin heads from Transcaucasia. 

This culture is supposed to be posterior to that of the Indus 
Valley because in the latter, besides the continuance of the use of 
stone tools — ‘the blades, etc., resembling larger microliths — the 
copper tools and weapons are of the simplest type. The harpoons 
and the sword are so far absent and the flat, broad-edged axe-head 
is obviously a copy of the Palaeolithic U-shaped cleaver and the 
Neolithic celt, a fact which can be demonstrated by typological 
studies, but not yet by stratigraphic sequence of cultures. 

5. THE IRON AGE 

The only evidence so far for assuming the transition from 
Copper and Bronze or Stone Age culture to the Iron Age has come 
from megalithic monuments such as dolmens, cromlechs, cairns, 
and menhirs. These have a very wide distribution in India. ^ ^ They 
have been found almost all over South India, Karnatak, the Deccan, 
Central India, Central Provinces, Orissa, Bihar, Assam, Rajputana, 
Gujarat (very few), and K^hmir. Only a few have been syste- 
matically excavated. This is enough to show that these monuments 
belong to different periods — from the late pre-historic to historic 
periods. ^ 

The Kashmir (Burzahom) megalith is assigned to a neolithic 
period.'^^ 

The Ranchi monuments,^ ^ some of which are credited to the 
Asuras by the present-day Mundas, yielded such a mixed assort- 
'ment of finds as polished stone tools, camelian beads, wheel-made 
pottery, copper and bronze objects, copper and gold ornaments, 
and even iron slags, that it is impossible to date the monuments to 
any one age. 

The Rajputina monuments also yielded earthen vessels with 

140 



PALAEOUTHIC, NEOUTHIC AND COPPER AGES 

lids, containing partially burnt hunuoi bones, skeletons in flexed 
position, microlith-like flakes, etJc, 

Monuments south of the Vindhyas, those in the Hyderabad"^ 
and Mysore States,'^ and in the ‘rest of South India, particularly 
the monuments examined by Rea at Adittanallur, in the Tamra- 
parni valley (Tinnevelly district), at Perumbair (Chingleput dis- 
trict), at Kaniyampundi (Coimbatore district) and Perungulam 
(Malabar), have also produced evidence of a varied stage of cultural 
development, which must not have been uniform even in penin- 
sular India. Along with beautiful thin- walled red and black pottery 
of different types, and huge thick-walled ones, are often found 
microlithic flakes of agate, or crystal, camelian beads, neolithic 
celts, and tools and weapons of iron and, at times, of copper or 
bronze. 

If it is difficult in our present limited knowledge, to trace the 
transition from the Stone or Copper Age to the Iron Age through 
these megalithic monuments, it is no less difficult to understand the 
purpose and types of these monuments themselves. Most of these 
are funerary, connected with the disposal of the dead. But it has 
also been shown that megalithic monuments in Assam were con- 
nected with fertility rites and ancestor worship.*^" Different motives 
have thus contributed to the raising of these megalithic monuments. 
To unravel these and weave a cultural pattern out of the separate 
threads is the great task of Indian archaeology. But unless the 
monuments are studied scientifically no conclusions as to their true 
nature, age, and origin^* ^ can be formulated 


1. Da.s Gupta, H. C., BihJiofiraphij of Prehistoric Indian Antiquities, 1931. 

2. See Dc Terra. H., and Paterson T.T., Studies on the Ice Age in India and the 
Associated Human CuHures, 1939, pp. 301-10. 

3. Ibid., PI. XXXI. A and PI. XXXIII. 

4. But the reason De Terra and Paterson assign (op.cif., p. 275) viz. “The wind- 
borne nature of the silt, and its high percentage of lime,” which is supposed 
to be unfavourable to the preservation of hones, does not seem to be correct. 
For in almost exactly similar soil, a fairly fossilized human skeleton and 
animal remains have been recently found in Gujarat. Cf. NIA, April 1944. and 
Preliminary Report of the Thh’d Gnjardt Expedition, Poona. 1945. 

5. De Terra and Paterson, op.cit,. PI. XXXIX-XUI. 

6. Ibid.. PI. XUI. 

7. Ibid.. PI. XLIII. 

8. Brown, J. Coggin. Catalogue of Ilrchii;toric Antiquities in the Indian Mvsenm 
at Calcutta, 1917. 

9. Sankalia, H.D., investiepations into Prehistoric Archaeology at Gujarat, 6ri Pratap- 
sirhha Maharaja Kaivabhisheka Granthamala, Memoir No. IV, Baroda, 1946. 

10. Ibid.. PI. XII. ■ 

11. De Terra, op. cit., p. 314. Full details of every layer are not given: 

12. Brown, op.cit. 

13. Ibid., and Foote, Notes on Ages and Distribution, 1916. 

14. According to the brief summarv given by Chattopadhyay, K.P., in JRASB(L), 
X., pp. 97-8. 

15. BDCRL IV. 1-16. 

16. JRAl LXIX, pp. 257-72, Pi. XIV. 

17. For this and the succeeding paragraphs see Foote, Notes on Ages and DistrU 
hution, 1916. 

18. Camininde and Burkitt, Antiquity. 1930, pp. 327-39. 

141 



THE VEDIC AGE 

19. Kr|shnaswami, V. D., Prehistoric Mon Aronnd Madras (Indian Academy of 

Sciences, Madras, 1938). ’* * 

20. De Terra and Paterson, op.cit., pp. 327-33. 

21. See Aiyappan, Manley Collection of Stone Age Tools, MASI, No. 68 (1942). 

22. For a provisional correlation of the L<ower Palaeolithic Cultures all over the 
world, see Paterson. “Geology and Earl 3 '- Man,” Nature, 1940, pp. 12, 49, 51. 

23. Foote, op.cit. 

24.. Gordon, JRASBL, VII. p. 129. 

25. De Terra, op.cit., p. 277. 

26. Krishna, M.H., Mrjsore Archaeological Survey Reports, 1942, pp. 100-9. 

27. Hunter. Nagpur University Journal, No. 1, p. 31 and No. 2. p. 127. 

28. De Terra, op.cit., pp. 277-8. 

29. Gordon, Art and Letters. 1936, pp. 35-41. 

30. Sankalia. op.cit., pp. 64-100, and Sankalia and Karve, NIA, VTI, 1-6, and 
Preliminary Report of the Third Gujarat Prehistoric Expedition. Poona, 1945. 

31. Sankalia and Karx o, Re])ort of the Third Gujarat Prehistoric Expedition, Poona, 
1945. 

32. De Terra and Paterson, op.cit., pp. 233-4 and Pi. XXIV. 

33. Tile two main works are Brown’s Catalogue, and Foote’s Notes on Ages, etc., 
and Catalogue Raisonne. and Catalogue Madras Museum: see also Das Gupta, 
Bibliography, which deals with finds made up to 1930-31. For later notices see 
annual Reports of the Mysore and Hvderabad Archaeological Departments. 

34. Cf CHI. I, 613-4. 

35. These notices were fii'st collected and commented by Smith in I A. XXXIV, 
229 ft*, and XXXVI 53 ff.; Brown used these in his Catalogue (1917); brought 
up to date by Das Gupta, Bibliography (1931); reclassified by G. N. Mukherjee 
in IHQ, Vol. XI, p, 522; and some items commented by Heine-Geldern (JISOA, 
IV. 87-115) and Piggott (“Prehistoric Copper Hoards in the Ganges Basin,*’ 
Antiquity, 72, December, 1944). 

36. Piggott, op.cit. 

37. Smith, op.cit.: POC. IV. 1928, pp. 729-34. 

38. Heine-Geldern, op.cit. 

39. Das Gupta, op.cit.. for notices up to 1930-31. Later notices are mostly in the 
Reports of the Mysore (1932 and 1940. 1941, 1942, 1943) and Hyderabad Archaeo- 
logical Departments (1937-40), ASI, and BDCRI. 

40. De Terra, op.cit., pp, 233-4, PI. XXIV; and Kak, Ram Chandra. Aiicient Monu- 
ments of Kashmir, p. Ill, PI. XLIII; cf. also The Progress of Science in India 
durina the Past Twenty-Five Years, 1938, pp. 309-13. 

^1. Rov, S.C., JRORS, I, 229-53, II, 61-77. 

42. Hunt, JRAI, LIV, p. 140 ft. 

43. Mt/sore Arch. Rep., op.cit. (See note 35 alcove). 

44. Rea, AS7. 1902-03: 1904-05, p. 41; 1908-09. p. 92; ASI Southern Circle, 1910-11, 
p. 12, 1913-14, p. 43 and 1914-15. p. 39. Catalogue of Prehistoric Antiquities 
from Adichavallvr and. Perumbair. 1915, and Richards, JRAI, LTV, p. 157 ff. 

45. Hutton, JRAI, LII, 55 ft. and 242 ft. and LVI, 71. 

46. For a tentative classification of megalithic — mostly funerary — monuments, 
known up to 1923, see Ghurye, MIA, VI, 26-57; 100-39; Aiyappan’s recent 
.summary in Proceedings of the Science Congress, 1945, Presidential Addresses, 
is useful. 

47. The writer is indebted to Rao Bahadur K. N. Dikshit, the Director General of 
Archaeology in India for having gone through the chapter and making a number 
of suggestions. 


M2 



CHAPTER VIII 


RACE MOVEMENTS AND PREHISTORIC 
CULTURE 

It is strange (.and somewhat difficult of explanation) that skeletal 
remains of Early Man in India, particularly in the prehistoric and 
early historical times, should be so scanty. This lack of material 
has not allowed us to postulate with certainty about racial move- 
ments in ancient times, and any appraisement or reconstruction of 
movements of peoples in India, some four or three or even two 
thousand years ago, is bound to remain largely hypothetical, and 
based on or inferred from the present-day situation only. Race is 
not, of course, synon 5 rmous wdth language; but when a language 
was becoming characterized as a distinct type in a particular area 
and among a particular people in prehistoric times, it formed an 
important cultural expression of that people, and as such a con- 
nexion betw’een the two is justified, always bearing in mind the 
great fact that language is after all but a secondary expression of 
culture and that it is largely transmissible from people to people. 

Racial anthropology, dealing with the physical features of a 
people, has sought to analyse the various elements which have 
contributed to build up the population of India, irrespective of what 
cultural ethnology has to say about languages and cultures. Various 
views were advanced by diverse anthropologists about the racial 
elements in the population of India. Until recently, the view that 
occupied a position of prestige as a sort of official pronouncement 
on behalf of the Government of India was that put forward by the 
late Sir Herbert Risley.'' 

This view, adopted in official publications and accepted very 
largely both in India and outside India without any questioning, 
divided the people of India, quite arbitrarily, with both insufficient 
data and immature science (not wholly free, it might also be sus- 
nectod. from political bias), into seven broad groups, labelled as 
Mongoloid. Indo-Aryan. Dravidian, Mongolo-Dravidian. Aryo-Dravi- 
dian, Scytho-Dravidian, and Turko-Iranian. An Indian anthropologist 
like the late Rama Prasad Chanda made a more systematized essay 
based on both anthropometric data and early tradition as preserved 
in ancient Indian literature towards a determination of the variops 
racial elements in India. ^ 

The next advance in this direction was made in 1933 by Dr. J. H. 
Hutton^ when a statement as to the rice-cum-language-and-culture 
.seciuence in India w'as nroposed which took note of the ad'^ance 
made in anthropology and ethnology since 1900. According to this 

143 



THE VEDIC AGE 


view, we have the advent of ^the following peoples in India from 
the outside (no kind of man originated on the soil of India, all her 
human inhabitants having arrived originally from other lands, but 
developing within India some of ^their salient characteristics and 
then passing on outside India), their names being given in an ap- 
proximate order of their arrival: 

(1) Negritos, brachy cephalic Negroids from Africa, the oldest 
people to have come to India, now surviving in the Andaman Islands 
(where they have retained their language) and in Malaya; and 
traces of them seem to occur among the Nagas in Assam and among 
certain tribes in South India. 

(2) “Proto- Australoids,’' black, dolichocephalic, platyrrhine, 
apparently an early offshoot of the Mediterranean race, who came 
from the east Mediterranean area (Palestine). The Melanesians 
appear to be in their racial basis of this early Mediterranean Proto- 
Australoid origin, with modifications from other races both inside 
and outside India. 

(3) Early Mediterraneans, leptorrhine dolichocephals, who 
brought earlier forms of the Austric speech. 

(4) Civilized or Advanced Mediterranean, leptorrhine doli- 
chocephals, who became the “Dravidians” in India. 

(5) Armenoids — 'a specialized off-shoot from the standard 
Alpine stock” — brachycephalic — probably came with the Civilized 
Mediterraneans (“Dravidians”) and spoke their language. 

(6) Alpines — brachycephalic, leptorrhine: found in Gujarat 
and Bengal; earlier than Vedic Aryans, but probably speaking Aryan 
dialects. 

(7) Vedic Aryans, or Nordics, leptorrhine dolichocephals who 
brought the Vedic Aryan (Sanskrit) speech. 

(8) Mongoloids, brachy cephals: not important for the greater 
part of India, as they touched only the northern and eastern fringes. 

Finally, the most recent and authoritative view has been put 
forward by Dr. B. S. Guha, Director of the Anthropological Survey 
of India.^ In his newest work,^* giving a useful resume of the whole 
question, Dr. Guha has signalized “six main races with nine sub* 
types,” as follows: ‘ 

1. The Negrito. 

2. The Proto- Australoid. 

3 . The Mongoloid, consisting of: 

(i) Palaeo-Mongoloids of (a) long-headed and 

(b) broad-headed types. 

(ii) Tibeto-Mongoloids. 

4. The Mediterranean, comprising: 

(i) Palaeo-Mediterranean, 

144 



RACE MOVEMENTS AND PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

(ii) Mediterranean, and 

(iii) the so-called Oriental type. 

5. The Western Brachycephals, consisting of: 

(i) The Alpinoid, 

(ii) The Dinaric, and 

(iii) The Armenoid. 

6. The Nordic. 

Of the above races, (1) the Negrito is all but extinct on the soil 
of India. A small group of Negritos is still surviving in the Anda- 
mans, and traces of the Negrito race have been found among the 
Kadars and Palayans of Cochin and the Travancore Hills, the Iruias 
of the Wynad, the Angami Nagas of Assam and some of the Raj- 
mahal Hill tribes in Eastern Bihar. The Negritos appear to have 
been suppressed and absorbed by other races which followed them, 
particularly the Proto-Australoids (.2). 

(2) The Proto-Australoids appear to have come from the West, 
and have become characterized in India. They survive in a good 
many aboriginal peoples of present-day India, although more or 
less mingled with other peoples. A branch of the Proto-Australoids 
passed on to Australia in very ancient times, and the '‘Austronesian ' 
peoples (.Indonesians, Melanesians and Polynesians) have a good 
deal of the Proto-Australoid element in them. Throughout the 
greater part of India the Proto-Australoid peoples still live as the 
lower castes or sections of the Indian people. 

(3) Of the various (3) Mongoloid groups, (Ij the Palaeo-Mongo- 
loids, sub-divided into two types, (i) (a) with a peculiar head-form re- 
sembling dolichocephal, occurring “as the more ancient stratum of the 
population” and forming “a dominant element in the tribes living 
in Assam and the Indo-Burmese fi;ontiers” and (i)(b) with round 
heads, found among the less primitive tribes in Burma and in the 
Chittagong Hills, appear to represent a less developed group of 
this race. The (ii) Tibeto-Mongoloids are a more pronounced and 
advanced Mongoloid type, and they are found in Sikkim and Bhu- 
tan, and “must have infiltrated from Tibet in comparatively later 
times.” 

(4) The Mediterranean peoples also represent several strains 
or types, all long-headed. We have in the first instance (i) the 
Palaeo-Mediterranean type, medium-statured dark-skinned and of 
.slight build; this is found largely in the Kannada, Tamil and Mala- 
yalam tracts, (ii) The true Mediterranean or European type, taller 
and fairer than the Palaeo-Mediterraneans. occurs in the Punjab 
and Upper Gangetic Valley, and is supposed to represent the civi- 
lized pre-Aryan “Dravidian” people of .Northern India which be- 
came Aryanized in language and contributed largely to the evolu- 
tion of the blindu people and culture of North India, (iii) The 

145 



THE VEDIC AGE 


third Mediterranean strain, the so-called ‘ Oriental’ one, commonly 
miscalled tne bemitic or Jewiih, w-tn a px’oiiounccdiy longisn nose 
and lair in skin, is iound in the Punjab, in bind, in liajpuvana anu 
m Western U.P., and it occurs also not unusually enougn, in otlier 
parts of India. 

The various (5) Brachycephal groups really form sub-groups 
of one single physical type, and they appear (.or at least tneir pro- 
totype appears) to have evolved in the Central Asian mountain 
regions. Brachycephalic peoples, both Alpine and Dinaric, appear 
to have spread over the greater part of India, the Dinaric type 
being well-marked in Bengal and Orissa, in Kathiawar, and in the 
Kannada and Tamil countries; and in Coorg it occurs in its purest 
form. In Gujarat the Alpinoid brachycephals show a greater pre- 
dominance. Broad head elements are found along the West Coast 
of India, excepting in Malabar; they are not found in the Telugu 
country. Early brachycephalic groups also established themselves 
in or passed through the Ganges Valley, as far as the delta, leaving 
traces or drifts in Central India, Eastern U.P. and Bihar; another 
line of migration is found along the Himalayas, from Chitral and 
Gilgit to Western Nepal. The Parsis of Bombay are a lately arrived 
brachycephalic group allied to the Armenoids — they present a con- 
trast to the long-headed Iranian Zoroastrians (Gabrs or Guebres) 
still living in Persia. 

Finally, we have the (6) Nordic Aryan-speaking group of India, 
who gave to India its Aryan speech, and by their organization, 
imagination and adaptability helped to bring about a great cultural 
synthesis leading to the foundation of the Hindu civilization of 
India. These Nordics seem to have been characterised in the Eura- 
sian steppe lands and they entered India some time during the 
second half of the second millennium B.C.'' Nordic elements are 
strong in parts of the North-West Frontier of India, particularly along 
the upper reaches of the Indus and along its tributaries the Swat, the 
Panjkora, the Kunar and the Chitral rivers, and in the south of the 
Hindu Kush range. In the Punjab and Rajputana and in the Upper 
Ganges Valley Nordic elements are present (although more and more 
mixed with other racial elements as we proceed further to the 
east), particularly among the higher castes or groups; among cer- 
tain sections elsewhere in India, the Nordic type predominates, 
e.g. among the Chitpavan Brahmans of the Maratha country. The 
original Nordic type is supposed to have been tall, fair-skinned, 
yellow or golden-haired and blue-eyed: such a type seems (from 
such meagre literary evidence as is available) to have characterized 
the true Aryans of ancient times, but owing to miscegenation and 
to climatic conditions the ctomplexion of the body and the colour 
of the hair and the eye have been modified or eliminated by natural 
selection to light brown or brown and to black (for the hair and 

146 



RACE MOVEMENl^S^ ANE> PRBfflSTORIC CULTURE 

the eyes), although light'eyed peojple are not uncommon among 
the INordic iong-heads in India/ scattfered as they are ail over the 
country. 

Dr. B. S. Guha has thus summed up the racial distribution for 
India as a whole: “It must be clearly understood that no ngia sepa- 
ration is possible as there is considerable overlapping oi types. 
From a broad point of view, however, a Nordic territory in north- 
western India, mixed with Mediterraneans and Orientals, can be 
distinguished from a territory in Peninsular India containing the 
older Palaeo-Mediterranean element. On both sides of this are 
the domains of the Alpo-Dinarics, mixed no doubt with other types. 
The primitive darker elements have come in everywhere and, with 
blood from other strains, chiefly Palaeo-Mediterranean, they con- 
stitute the lower stratum of the population.* The Mongoloids 
occupy the submontane regions of the north and the east, but 
various thrusts from them have gone deeply into the composition of 
the people.”^ 

It has not yet been established that a particular racial type, 
by the mere fact of some pronounced or subdued racial characteris- 
tic which it possesses, must necessarily or inevitably have its men- 
tal and emotional outlook or attitude pre-decided. In other words, 
it cannot be asserted that there must be an ineradicable racial cha- 
racter. But on the other hand the economic milieu, and the special 
training which the mind and the emotions receive in an organized 
or corporate body of men, create a framework of civilization or 
ordered life which commonly finds an expression in the language 
of that body of men: and hence we are more justified in speaking of 
language cultures than of racial cultures; and we must also consider 
that from the beginning of recorded history racial inter-mixture 
has proceeded apace, leading to a profound modification of any 
special race- type in its most ancient and pristine form. The six 
different main types of humanity, with their various ramifications, 
as discussed above, which have gone to make the people of India, 
are now included within one or the other of four distinct speech- 
families: viz., the Austric (Kol or Mun^a), the Tibeto-Chinese or 
Sino-Tibetan, the Dravidian, and the Indo-European (Aryan). 
Even in some cases the economic milieu transcends the diversity 
of language and language-culture, and tones down very largely, 
within a given economic area, the more aggressively prominent or 
more easily noticeable special cultural traits that' go with language 
— religion, social usage, customs, etc. Thus in Chota Nagpur, it] 
spite of diversity of language the Dravidian-speaking Oraons and 
the Austric (Kol) -speaking Munijas are within the fold of a common 
culture; and in Central Europe, the InHo-European-speaking Ger- 
mans and Slavs, in spite of their pronounced linguistic diversity 
although within the same family, and the entirely distinct Finno- 

147 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Ugrian-speaking Magyars, share a common type of economip and 
cultural life. The same observation can be made about the Indo> 
European-speaking Armenians and Ossetes, the Ural-Altaic-speaking 
Azarbijanis and the Caucasic Georgians and others in the Caucasus 
regions. 

So, too, for India as a whole, a more or less common type of 
economic life based on agriculture and taking shape within the 
limits of India forming a single geographical unit, combined with 
a large-scale commingling of different races building up a common 
history, has been responsible for the gradual modification of what 
doubtless existed in most ancient times as distinct racial types and 
distinctive language-cultures, and has led to the evolution, as a 
result of a more or less conscious movement, of a common Indian 
type and a common Indian culture. In this culture of India, after 
at least two and a half millennia of close interaction, the original 
genetic differences in the four language-families obtaining in 
India from prehistoric times have largely converged towards the 
evolution of a number of common traits. 

It will not be possible at the present moment to make a definite 
pronouncement about the mental and spiritual environment of the 
various types of man in their primitive stage when they came 
into India, although, through a close study of the question, taking 
all help from anthropology, religiology, linguistics, sociology, pre- 
historic archaeology, and other human sciences we may make some 
near enough guesses about their material culture and the contribu- 
tions they made to the common store-house of Indian life and 
Indian civilization, both in the material and the mental and 
emotional sides. In this way we can bring to light the basis on 
which Indian civilization rests in all its aspects, material, 
mental, and spiritual, and its genesis will enable us properly 
to appreciate and understand its subsequent evolution and trans- 
formation. « 

We have to begin with the Negroid or Negrito people of pre- 
historic India, who were its first human inhabitants. At the present 
day the Negritos have practically vanished from the soil of India. 
Originally they would appear to have come from Africa through 
Arabia and the coast-lands of Iran,, jand Baluchistan. They were 
in the eolithic stage of culture, and they appear to have been food- 
gatherers rather than food-producers. In India, the Negritos would 
appear to have bqpn either killed off by the later immigrants, more 
advanced than themselves, notably the Proto-Australoids, or ab- 
sorbed by them. They survive in a few primitive tribes in South 
India, and traces of the Negrito have been found in the Nagas of 
Assam. Beyond India, they passed on to Malaya, where Negrito 
tribes still survive, and even further into the distant islands of 
Indonesia, like the Philippines, and into New Guinea. Within the 

148 



Hack movemenis aHd prehistoric culture 

Indian domain^ they are found ,in a •few hundred Andamanese in 
the Andaman Islands, where they have still kept up their own 
language. Their settlement in the Andamans shows a certain ad- 
vance in culture, as they must have crossed the sea in their small 
dugouts, which testifies to their skill as well as courage and imagi- 
nation; and they came to be acquainted with the bow and arrow, 
and the blow-pipe, probably from the Proto-Australoids, unless they 
invented these themselves. Except in the case of the Andamanese, 
the Negritos who survive in India and Further India (including 
Malaya) at the present day speak everywhere debased dialects of 
their more civilized neighbours. The original Negrito speech of 
India, whatever it was, seemingly survives in Andamanese, whicn 
as a language or dialect group stands isolated. O.wing to their very 
primitive state, the Negritos do not appear to have contributed any- 
thing of importance to the civilization of India. 

Negrito elements or traits, judging from some racial types de- 
picted in the an of Gupta and post-Gupta India (as in Gupta sculp- 
ture and in the Ajanta frescoes), seem to have survived to a very 
late period; but now they have been almost wholly eliminated, it 
has been suggested^ that the cult of the ficus tree, associated with 
fertility and with the souls of the dead, and some ideas about the 
Path of the Dead to Paradise guarded by an avenging demon, which 
are widespread in Southern Europe, Africa^ and Oceania, and partly 
also India, might well have come from the Negrito people. 

Situated as they were, the Negritos were not in a position to 
influence the languages which came to India subsequently. At 
least two other linguistic strata covered up Negrito speech — the Aus- 
tric and the Dra vidian, before the Aryan language arrived, so nothing 
from Negrito speech had much chance of coming into Aryan. But 
it may be that here and there a word indicative of some object, 
some element from the flora or the fauna of India, has survived, 
although in a much altered form, being passed on from the Negrito 
language through the Proto-Australoid or Dravidian dialects to 
Indo-Aryan. One such word may be the Bengali and Oriya budud, 
bddadi “bat”: the basic element would seem to be *bdd^ which 
was extended by the addition o| the pleonastic affix — ada — plus the 
feminine and diminutive affix-I from Old Tndo-Aryan ikd; and with 
this ’^bdd, otherwise unexplained, may be compared Andamanese 
io6t-da, wat-da, wot, ^ad^™“bat” and the element pp, tact, met, wed, 
wdt, in some of the aboriginal languages of Malaya and Indo-China 
belonging to the Austro-Asiatic branch of the Austric family (some 
of which are spoken by the Negrito tribes of Malaya); e.g. tra-pet, 
sa-pet, hani-pct, sa~rnet, Ixaniet. ka-met, ka-xoed, qan-at-, kat 
< ^ka-vmt, kawa < u6t. 

The Proto-Australoids, who appear to have come after tht' 
Negritos, and that, too, from the West, have furnished one of the 

149 


V.A.— 10 



THE VEDIC AGE 

basic elements in the populaticn of India. There were, as it would 
appear, numerous lines of migration of this race from the west 
and east through India, and the Proto-Australoid type was modified 
both within and beyond by admixture with other peoples, notably 
the Negritos and the Mongoloids; and as a result, we have, it would 
seem, the Kol or Mu^i^a type in India, the Mon-Khmer type in 
Assam, Burma, and Indo-China, the Nicobarese in the Nicobar 
Islands, and the Indonesian Melanesian, and Polynesian types in the 
islands of the Indian Archipelago and those of Melanesia and Poly- 
nesia. All these congeries of mixed peoples extending from the 
extreme north-west of India, throughout the whole of Inuia, Burma, 
indo-China and Malay Peninsula into the islands of the Indian 
Archipelago (Indonesia) and those of Melanesia, Micronesia, and 
Polynesia — in a word, from Kashmir to Baster Island — have a Proto* 
Australoid element; and the languages they speak have been found 
to possess common traits which warrant their inclusion wdhin a 
single speech family. The researches of Pater VV. Scliinidl have 
established the Aiistric Family of Languages, which is found to have 
two main ramifications — (i) the Austronesian, under which come the 
closely agreeing Indonesian, Melanesian, Micronesian, and Poly- 
nesian languages, and (iij the Austro- Asiatic, which embraces the 
Kol or Muiiila speeches of India, Nicobarese, and the Mon-Khmer 
speeches of India (Assam), Burma, and Indo-China. 

As things stand, the original Austric speech, which took different 
forms under diverse conditions within this vast area over which it 
spread, would appear to have been brought from the west by the 
Proto-Australoids; and in its original form las the ultimate source 
of both the Austro- Asiatic and Austronesian branches; it could very 
well have been characterized within India. Outside India, the 
Proto- Australoids passed on to Australia, where their language and 
culture took a definite form which was quite isolated and distinct 
from that of the Austro-Asiatic and Austronesian peoples. 

After the Melanesian and Polynesian types in ethnology and 
language came to be established, it would appear that there were 
back-washes of immigrations of Melanesians and Polynesians into 
India, which brought in certain new cultural contributions from 
these peoples; and these Melanesian and Polynesian immigrants 
would appear to have now become totally assimilated into the mass 
of the Indian population. From -the Melanesians, the custom of 
disposal of the dead by exposure, communal houses, head-hunting 
^nd a canoe cult appear to have been introduced into India. The 
introduction of the outrigger canoe and of the coconut into India 
may have been due to the* Polynesians. 

The Proto-Australoid’s contribution to the primitive culture of 
India, it has been thought, included the following matters: pottery, 
which would appear to have been unknown to the Negritos; neo- 

ISO 



liACB MOVBMlilNTS AND PMHlStORlC CULTURE 

lithic development of the palaeolithic^ culture of the country; the 
use of the boomerang and of the blowing-gun; and ideas of totemism 
in religion. Hoe and digging-stick cultivation, followed at least in 
some parts of the country by terrace cultivation of rice, may have ori- 
ginated on the soil of India in the hands of the Proto-Australoids; 
and this would appear to have been advanced largely in the extra- 
Indian lands of south-eastern Asia. 

The bases of Proto- Australoid culture — assuming that the 
language of the Proto-Australoids was the primitive source-speech 
from which the current Austro-Asiatic and Austronesian languages 
have descended — can to a certain extent (apart from some prehisto- 
ric implements and artifacts^ which can be ascribed to the Proto- 
Australoidsj be reconstructed through linguistic palaeontology, 
along lines whicli have proved to be so successful in the case of the 
primitive Indo-European cultural milieu, Renward Brandstetter 
has, in his brilliant papers on Indonesian, essayed to reconstruct 
not only the primitive Indonesian speech (which comes within the 
AusHonesian branch of Austric) but also the natural and mental 
background of the speakers of Primitive Indonesian. '*^ For Austric 
(if not for Austric as a whole, at least for the Austric speech world 
of India) a new line of investigation has been started by Jean Przy- 
luski, with full approval and support of Sylvain Levi, Jules Bloch, 
and others. ‘ ' 

In studying certain non- Aryan elements in the Indo- Aryan 
speech in its different periods — non-Aryan elements which are not 
Dravidian — Przyluski found out that these belonged to the Austro- 
y\siatic speeches as they were current in India. At the present day, 
Austro-Asiatic dialects belonging to the Kol or Munda group only 
are spoken on the soil of India, and only one speech of the Mon-Khmer 
group is currer.l in Assam, viz. Khasi, while other Mon-Khmer spee- 
ches are found in Burma and Indo-China. But from a study of the 
Austric words found in Indo-Aryan it would appear that dialects 
allied to both Kol and Mon-Khmer were current in India during 
the oldest period of contact between Tndo-Aryan and Austric, and 
possibly also speeches more closely connected with Austronesian 
(Indonesian specially) within the Austric family. How^ever, from 
these non-Aryan (and non-DraviSian) loans wdiich are from Austric. 
we can make some guesses as to the nature of the culture-world 
which the Austric-speaking or Proto-Australoid peoples presented 
vis-a-vis the Aryan-speaking invaders from the West. 

The words from Austric borrowed by Indo-Aryan refer in the* 
first instance to items in the special flora and fauna of India not 
known to the Aryan-speakers; naturally, enough, then, they also 
refer to culture plants known to the Austric-speakers, and to some 
of their culture objects and ideas. Thus, the Aryans came into Iran 
(and possibly also into India) with a knowledge of barley anrl 

151 



THE VEDIC AGE 


wheat among cereals; their word for “barley,” yava in Sanskrit, is 
of Indo-European origin (^dreek^zca^ I-E "'yeioa-), and that for 
“wheat” (Sanskrit godhuma^ Persian gandum < Iranian '^gandhuma) 
is of unlinown origin. For “rice,” the oldest word in Indo-Aryan 
is vnhi, which has Iranian affinities (e.g. Persian birinj^ gurinj, Old 
Iranian Pa§to wrizfi, whence Greek oruza, briza) and which 

may be connected with the Dra vidian (Tamil) arichi ^.'^arki^ argi. 
But in the New Indo-Aryan languages the common word for “rice” 
is chdwal^ chdwal, chdul, and this would appear to be based on a 
Middle Indo-Aryan cMmala (cf. the Old and Middle Indo-Aryan 
forms chdma, d-chdma) meaning “rice” as well as “food,” and this 
chama^la, in its original sense of “food,” might be very well con- 
nected with Kol or Munda root jom, “to eat.”’^ 

Certain comrnon fruits and vegetables may similarly be pre- 
sumed to have been cultivated by the Austria speakers, as their 
Sanskrit and other Aryan names are of Austria origin: the banana 
(Sanskrit fcadali, kandali), aoconut (ndrlkela), betel (tambula), the 
brinjal or egg-plant (v^tihgana), the pumpkin tcldbii), the lime 
(nwibiika), the rose-apple (jambtt), eta., and also cotton ikarpdsa^ 
karpata) and silk-cotton isabnali^ simbali). The domestic fowl 
{krikQvdka, "^"kurkuta > kukkiita), the peacock (ynrok as an ex- 
pletive in the Atharva-Veda, compare Kol marak' “peacock.” beside 
Dravidian mayil as in Tamil), the elephant (rndtahga^ Qcija}, and 
some breed of horse or pony (*sdda, as in Sanskrit .<^adin — “rider”) 
appear to have been known to the pre-Aryan peoples of India speak- 
ing Austria. The Austria speakers supplied to Indo-Aryan its 
common word for “arrow” (bdna), and for “stick” and “phallus” or 
“the phallus symbol,” both from a word meaning originally 
“stick,” and then “digging-stick for ploughing” (lakuta, laguda, 
linga: laikjd in NIA — Bihari), and these show two noteworthy 
aspects of the cultural life of the Austric speakers v/hich had their 
repercussion on that of the Aryan speakers.^"' 

Some of the fundamental bases of Indian civilization on the 
material side would thus appear to be the gifts of the Austric- 
speaking Proto-Australoid people: the cultivation of rice, the raising 
of some important vegetables, the manufacture of sugar from the 
cane, and the use of the betel vine in life and in ritual; the habit 
of counting on the basis of twenty (Bengali ku4i, Hindi ?co(li), and 
probably also the use of turmeric and vermilion in religious ritual 
anX social life (e.g. in marriage), combined with some notions of 
.future life (survival of the soul after death, and the germs of the 
idea of transmigration) and some mythological and religious as well 
as romantic notions and stories appear to have come from the same 
source") Weaving of cotton cloth was also an Austric or Proto- 
Austrmoid invention; and probably the Proto- Australoids were the 
first people to domesticate and train the elephant. 

152 



RACE MOVEMENTS AND PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

Certain magico-religious rituals, ^.g. the removal of the evil 
eye by the rite known in Northern India as nichhawar or baran^ 
which have a strong place in Hindu society, would seem to be of 
Austric origin. The idea of tabod would seem to be another trail 
derived from the mentality of the Proto- Australoids (or Austric 
speakers) in prehistoric times, when Arya and Nishdda — the Aryan 
and the dark-skinned Austric dwellers in the forests — first met in 
the Punjab: Sylvain Levi has drawn our attention to the fact that 
the Atharva-Veda word idbiiva was connected with the Polynesian 
word iapu or tabu by A. Weber in 1876 and by Barth later on; and 
it is likely that the word passed on with the Proto-Australoid immi- 
grants into Austronesia, the distant Polynesian islands, while in India 
it was borrowed in the Atharvaveda. Cosmic and creational myths 
and ideas as they had originated among the pre-Aryan Austric-speak- 
ing peoples of India were adopted into the cosmopolitan or compo- 
site Aryan-non-Aryan or Hindu religion and legend, while these made 
their steady way into the oceanic regions of the Pacific through the 
islands of Indonesia with the expanding Proto-Australoids. Cer- 
tain remarkable agreements between the cosmogony of the Poly- 
nesians and that of the Nasadiyo hymn of the Rigveda (X. 129) have 
to be taken note of in this connexion. The enumeration of the 
days by the phases of the moon — the tithis — which was early 
adopted by the Hindu people probably simultaneously with its 
formation and has still been retained in the sacred or religious 
(ritualistic) calendar of the Hindus, is again an Austric custom 
which survived in Polynesia^ even the old Austric names for two 
of the phases of the moon, wiiich are still found in the Polynesian 
group of Austronesian, were adopted in India by Sanskrit (rdkd=- “full 
moon/’ and Jcnh?/ r- “new moon”).^"^ It has also been suggested 
that the Sanskrit name of at least one constellation is of Austric 
origin, viz. ?n<Ttrifcd— “the Pleiades,'’ the present-day Polynesian 
form of which is matariki. 

The culture-world of India has thus among its material and 
other ideological bases some fundamental things derived from the 
Austric speakers, assuming that they were also, in their pure state, 
Proto-Australoid in race, which became fully characterized on the 
roil of India. That would be ofily natural, as this racial element 
forms one of the most important in the present-day Indian people, 
as anthropologists tell us, the masses or the lower classes through- 
out the greater part of India being largely of this stock. The bed- 
rock of Indian civilization is agriculture, and that, in all likelihood* 
in connexion with the cultivation of rice, goes back to the Austric 
Proto- Australoids of India. I The germs of the idea of transmigra- 
tion which has been so potent *a force in Indian thought, religion 
and life, would probably go back to this source: also some of the 
fundamental cults and rituals. J 

153 



THE VEDIC AGE 


In the domain of myth and legend, a number of Austric notions 
and tales appear to have survived in the myths of the Puranas and 
of the popular Hinduism. The legends of the creation of the world 
from an egg or eggs, of the Avatar as or incarnations of Vishnu, e.g. 
that of the tortoise incarnation, of the princess smelling of fish 
(matsya-gandhd)j of the Nagas as serpent spirits of the waters and 
the underworld, and many more, which do not form part of the 
Aryan or Indo-European inheritance in Hinduism, and do not seem 
to have come from the Dravidian world either, can reasonably bo 
expected to have been derived from the Austric or Proto-Australoid 
world. 

All these have been more or less distorted or transformed in the 
Sanskrit Puranas, in the traditions surviving among the Austric- 
speaking tribes ox the present day, or in popular Hindu folklore of 
today. 'Jbe^use of of stone as a symbol of the divinity 

is also Austric — it may also have been Dravidian in addition. Some 
fan^b^^ tales would also go back to the same source. Zoomor- 
phic deities appear also to be survivals from Austric or Proto-Aus- 
traloid totemism which also was reinforced by the Dravidian cults 
possessing a similar character (e.g. the Ndgas or snake deities, the 
tortoise, the makara or crocodile, the monkey god, Ganesa with his 
elephant’s head, etc.). 

It would be too much to try to appraise the stamp of the original 
Proto-Australoid character upon that of our masses of the present 
day, but from the character of the present-day Kol or Munda peoples 
of Eastern India, and of the peoples like the Oraons whose cultural 
miliext is that of the Kols although they are Dravidian-speakers, 
we may be allowed to formulate this Austric inheritance. The 
Austric temperament was pre-eminently gregarious; it was super- 
stitious and to some extent timid, though not cowardly in face of 
dangers it could understand. Cheerfulness and love of simple music 
and gaiety came naturally to the Austric temper even in the midst 
of hard labour: and it was not over-sensitive to physical discomfort. 
There was a touch of erotic abandon in it, but along with that there 
was a great respect for convention which put the rein on licence. 
As a sympathetic student of the aborigines of Chota Nagpur, W. G. 
Archer, has said of the Oraons, wiio live within the same economic 
and cultural atmosphere as the Mundas, Santals, Hos, and other 
agricultural Kol tribes: ‘‘A few notes should be added on Oraon 
‘character.’ To the earliest observers a capacity for cheerful hard 
work was the most notable character of Oraons; and a sturdy gaiety, 
an exultation in bodily physique and a sense of fun are still their 
most obvious qualltiei^. These are linked to a fundamental simpli- 
city^-^a tendency to isee an emotion as an action, and hot to compli- 
cate it by postponement Or cogitation ... The final picture is of a 
kindly simplicity and a smiling energy.”'^ ^ 

154 



RACE MOVEMENTS AND PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

In discussing the Austric or Austro-Asiatic speakers of India 
and their contribution to the make-up of the Indian people, mention 
should also be made of the theory of the Hungarian scholar William 
Hevesy (Hevesy Vilmos, Wilhelm.von Hevesy, Guillaume de Hevesy;, 
recently put forward in some books and papers in German and 
French, combating Pater W. Schmidt’s theory of an ’Austric family 
of languages divided into two groups, Austronesian. and Austro- 
Asiatic (the latter including the Kol or Munda languages of India). 
Hevesy has challenged Pater Schmidt’s view that the Munda or Kol 
peoples speak dialects which are members of the Austro-Asiatic 
branch of Austric: he denies the existence of an Austric speech 
family, and he proposes quite a different affinity for the Kol or 
Munda languages, viz., Finno-Ugrian. Hevesy’s views were put for- 
ward for the first time in 1930, but so far they have met with neither 
any general or wide acceptance nor a thorough or systematic refu- 
tation. According to Hevesy, Mund^ or Kol belongs to the Finno- 
Ugrian speech-group, under which come Magyar or Hungarian, 
Finn in its various dialects, Esth of Esthonia, Lapp of Lapland, and 
Vogul, Ostyak, Zyrian, Votyak, Cheremis, Mordvin and Samoyed 
of Russia and Siberia. Hevesy believes that there was a prehistoric 
invasion of or immigration into India by Finno-Ugrian or Ugrian 
tribes from the Eurasian plains to the south of the Ural Mountains, 
and the Mundas or Kols with their language resulted from a mix- 
ture of these Ugrians with the earlier peoples of the countr 5 ^ the 
Negritos and the Proto-Australoids. Hevesy bases his view on 
certain points of agreement between the Kol speeches on the one 
hand and the Finno-Ugrian speeches on the other — points of agree- 
ment which have not been admitted by any competent linguistician 
who is equally at home in Kol and in Finno-Ugrian (and such a 
person would be exceedingly rare to find). The points of cultural 
similarity between the Kols and the Finno-Ugrians as proposed by 
Hevesy are not convincing. There might have been an Ugrian in- 
flux into India, in very ancient times, but there is nothing positive 
to establish it. 

The Austric linguistic zone has been conjecturally extended 
further to the west of India by Jean Przyluski and others, who see 
in the Sumerian speech of Chaldea a language allied to primitive 
Austric. Przylu.ski has even seen an Austric substratum in Indo- 
Iranian: certain words like Sanskrit la rr- Persian hdl ‘ffiair,” Sans- 
krit hhishaj - Avestan hisaz ‘‘doctor,” “healing,” as connected with 
Sanskrit insha “poison,” etc., Przyluski explains as being from the 
Austric, which would appear to have influenced Iranian also.'’^'^ 
But this, too, cannot be described as satisfactorily established. Wc 
ma 3 ^ admit the possibility of Sumerian, and Austric being related, 
for we have to remember that the Proto-Australoids, who are sup- 
posed to have been the original speakers of Austric. were a very 

155 



THE VEDIC AGE 


ancient offshoot of the Mediterranean race, and as such in their 
trek to India where they became specially characterized they may 
have left some of their tribes on the way, or some of their kinsmen 
might earlier have preceded them and had established themselves 
in Mesopotamia, to become the Sumerians who built up the basic 
culture of that part of the world. But even then it seems that India 
was the centre from which the Austric speech spread into the lands 
and islands of the east and the Pacific; and the theory that there is 
actually an Austric Family of Languages in its two groups of Aus- 
tronesian and Austro-Asiatic, as propounded by Pater W. Schmidt, 
may be said to hold the ground still. 

The Austric Proto-Australoids were spread over the greater 
part of India. In the Indus and Ganges valleys, when the Aryans 
first met them, they were known as Nishddas, and their dark skin 
and snub noses were held in ridicule by the fair and straight-nosed 
Aryans. The masses of agricultural Austrics in the North Indian 
plains from Afghanistan to Eastern Bihar gradually became Aryan- 
speaking, roughly between c. 1500 B.C. (about when the first Aryan 
invasion or land immigration into India took place) to c. 600 B.C., 
a little before the time of the Buddha: but even in the time of the 
Buddha, pockets, large or small, of non-Aryan ( Austric and Dra vi- 
dian) speakers still remained throughout this tract. We find, for 
example, in the Buddhist JdtakQs, mention of Chandala villages 
where they still employed the Chandala tongue, a supposed word 
from which is given — giligili — in the Chitta-samhhuta Jdtaka. 
Through the contact of Aryan and Austric, and through large masses 
of Austric speakers abandoning their native speech, the Aryan 
speech came to be affected, in phonetics, in vocabulary^ in morpho- 
logy and in syntax*. The question of vocabulary, as said before, 
has been taken up for study, and beginning with the pioneer re- 
searches of Jean Przyluski in this field, we are gradually being 
enabled to find to what extent Austric vocables have found a place 
in Indo- Aryan in its three stages of Old, Middle, and New Indo- 
Aryan. Place-names in North India (and undoubtedly also in the 
Deccan and South India) show Austric elements, thus indicating 
the presence of Austric speakers in the localities with these names. 
A name like Gangd is in all likelihood of Austric origin, and it 
appears to have meant ju^t “a river” as in its modern Bengali equi- 
valent gang -- ‘^river, channel.” Original Austric speakers form a 
substratum in Burma, Indo-China -and South China also, and the 
Indian Gangd, gang, the Indo-Chinese Khong as in Mc-khong, and 
the South-Chinese Kiang < "Kang < ^Ghang fas in Yang-tsze-Kiang 
and a dozen other river names) — all of these can very well be from 
the same old Austric word,* now lost to most of the Austric tongues. 

We may next take into consideration the cultural world of the 
Dravidian speakers with special reference to its contribution to the 

156 



RACE MOVEMENTS AND PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

formation of the ancient Hindu world. Anthropologists, as noted 
before, assume at least three variefties^ or modifications of the Medi- 
terranean race as having come to India, and all of these would 
appear to have been speakers of .Dravidian, at least in India — the 
Palaeo-Mediterraneans, the Mediterraneans proper, and the so-called 
‘‘Orientals,” They w’ere all long-headcKl, and they dame to India 
with a fairly high level of civilization. As contrasted with the 
Proto-Australoids or Austrics, whose culture was mainly a village 
culture based on agriculture, these Dravidian-speaking Mediterra- 
nean peoples (in their various ramifications) in India were respon- 
sible for cities and a city culture — for a real civilization, in the true 
sense of the word, including international trade. 

The Dravidian speeches of the present day stand apart in a 
group by themselves, and although structurally, they agree with 
some other speech families (e.g. with the Ural-Altaic family, which 
includes the Altaic speeches like Mongol, Turki, and Manchu on 
the one hand and the Ural or Finno-Ugrian speeches like Magyar, 
Finn, Esth, Lapp, Ostyak, Votyak, Zyrian, Cheremis, Samoyed, etc., 
on the other, in both Ural-Altaic and Dravidian possessing the same 
“agglutinative” structure in word-formation), in their roots, words, 
and affixes they do not agree with any current group of languages. 
There are fundamental points of difference between Dravidian and 
all the other speech-families which are current in India — the Aus- 
tric, the Sino-Tibetan and the Indo-European (Aryan). The Dravi- 
dian tongues now form a solid bloc in the Deccan and South India 
to the south of the sixteenth latitude; and between the twenty- 
fourth and sixteenth latitudes, apart from the massive bloc of 
Telugu in the centre and the east and that of Kannada in the west, 
there are large Dravidian patches like Gondi, Kui, and Oraon which 
have been broken up a very great deal by the infiltration of the 
Aryan dialects. 

But there is evidence, both indirect and direct, that in Central 
India, in North India, and in Western India, and possibly also in 
Eastern India, Dravidian was at one time fairly widespread. In 
Baluchistan we have the bloc of the Brahui speech, which is Dravi- 
dian; and it is quite conceivable that the Brahui area is just a sur- 
viving fragment of a very wid^-spread Dravidian tract which ex- 
tended from Baluchistan and Sind through Rajputana and Malwa 
into the present-day Maratha country and the Dravidian lands of 
the south, and which also extended north and north-east in the 
Punjab and the Ganges valley, and possibly also north-west through 
Afghanistan into Iran. * 

Survival of Dravidian vocables in the place-names of Northern 
India, interpretation of the references • to non- Aryan peoples or 
tribes in Vedic and other ancient Indian literature, the presence of 
a strong Dravidian element in the Aryan language from the Vedic 

157 



THE VEDIC AGE 


downwards, the gradual ‘"Dravidization” in spirit of the Aryan 
language leading to a very large approximation of the Modern or 
New Indo-Ai'yan languages to the speech-habits of Dravidian, the 
Dravidian character of a good deal of the extra-1 ndoEuropean 
elements^ in Hindu religion, ritual^nd thought, mythology and 
legeiTffary history, and the discovery of a Mediterranean type in the 
people of the Upper Ganges Valley — all these are strong evidences 
in favour of an assumption that Dravidian speakers were largely 
to be found in the Punjab and the Upper Ganges Valley also; and 
toponomy and cultural survivals would point to an extension of 
the Dravidian speakers further eastward into Bengal, although here 
the long-headed Austrics and a brachycephalic people seem to have 
largely intermingled. In the North India plains, more than any- 
where else, the Dravidian and Austric peoples appear to have been 
living side by side: probably there was at first a Dravidian element 
ruling over the Austric, and this was leading to a cultural and racial 
fusion. 

The want of a solid bloc of Dravidian speakers or of Austric 
speakers in the Punjab and Upper Ganges Valley — the fact of the 
land being inhabited by peoples of these two different language- 
cultures — gave to the Aryan speech with its own culture-world its 
greatest opportunity, so that within a few hundred years after the 
Aryan language had been established in the Punjab, it could spread 
as far as eastern Bihar, ousting the earlier pre-Aryan speeches, 
and gaining greater momentum as its area extended east and south. 

We are not absolutely certain that the city-builders of Harappa 
and Mohenjo-daro in South Punjab and Sind, whom the Aryans 
doubtless encountered, spoke Dravidian, but there is a balance of 
probability that they did. This matter cannot be proved or dis- 
proved until vie find the clue to the script in the hundreds of seals 
found at Harappa and Mobenjo-daro and other sites. The Rev. H. 
Heras, S. J. has sought to read Old Tamil in these seals from the 
South Punjab and Sind: but it is highly improbable that in epigraphs 
from a culture-age going back to, say, 2500 B.C., there should be 
found a language which is not much older than A.D. 500. For 
although the oldest of the Chen-tamizh or Old Tamil works in their 
original form may go back to the centuries round about the time of 
Christ, the language which is found in them is considerably later. 
Moreover, we have to take note of the fact that Old Tamil in its 
ohonetics represents a very much, decayed form of the primitive 
Dravidian sneech. which — or something like which — can alone be 
v?xpected to have been in use in the third millennium B.C., the an- 
proximate date for the Mobenjo-daro culture. For example, thr^ 
word Tamil itself: tamiz, it has been very conclusively established, 
was pronounced ^'darniz in the early centuries of the Christian era, 
and earlier, in the first hn^f of the first millennium B.C. it was in 

158 



RACE MOVEMENTS AND PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

all likelihood '^dramiza, which was adopted into Sanskrit as Dramila, 
Dramida, Dravida before the Christian era. All other attempts to 
read right away, with the help of Sanskrit for instance, the South 
Punjab and Sind seals need not be taken into serious consideration. 

The Aryan invaders or immigrants found in India two groups 
of peoples, one of which they named the Ddsas^ ahd Dasyus, and 
the other NisMdas. The Dasa-Dasyu people evidently had rami- 
fications or extensions in Iran as well: we have in the south-east of 
the Caspian the Dahai people noted by the Greeks, and Ddha is but 
the Iranian modification of Ddsa; and in Iranian the word dahyu 
(whence Modern Persian dih) was in use, meaning “country'" or 
“the countryside,” which would only appear to have been originally 
a tribal name, the Iranian equivalent of the Indo-Aryan dasyn, 
generalized to mean the “country” only. In India the words ddsa 
and dasyii changed their meaning — as names of the enemies of the 
Aryans offering them resistance, who were frequently enough con- 
quered and enslaved, and these words came respectively to mean 
“slave” and “robber.” The two names appear originally to be relat- 
ed, both being from a root or base das or das: the words may after 
all be Aryan or Indo-European in origin — cf. Sanskrit ddsati “follows 
up’\ and likely equivalents of this Indo-Aryan root occur in other 
Indo-European languages. We should note similar semantic changes in 
Europe; how the Slav national appellation Slavu (meaning “glori- 
ous, noble”) came to be transformed into the word slave (as in 
English), and how the Celtic tribal name Volcae became '^Walx~ or 
'^Walh- in Germanic, and then came to signify “any foreign people,” 
and gave rise to names like Wales, Wallachia, Walschand (= “Italy,” 
in German) and names of peoples like Welsh and Vlach. The Ddsa- 
Dasyu (— Daha-Dahyu) people would appear to have spread from 
at least Eastern Iran through Afghanistan to North-Western and 
Western India — Punjab (and probably the Western or Upper 
Ganges Valley) and Sind — when the Aryans came into India. 
There is no indication from the Rigveda that the Aryans were 
conscious of entering a new country when they came to India. This 
was certainly due to the fact that they did not find any appreciable 
difference in the non-Aryan people they encountered in India from 
the non-Aryan people they knew in Eastern Iran. It is also equally 
likely that racial and cultural fusion (including linguistic influencing) 
had commenced between the Aryan and the Dasa-Dasyu peoples^ 
outside the soil of India itself — in Iran, in all Ukelihood. The Vedic 
speech already shows a number of words which are non- Aryan 
words with Dravidian affinities, and shows at least in its phonetics 
a profound modification on the lines of Dravidian by adopting or 
developing the cerebral sounds (t ^ v h sh) which are so distinctive 
of Dravidian. 

When the hypothesis of an Aryan invasion and occupation of 

150 



THE VEDIC AGE 


India was first proposed some four generations ago, it was believed 
that the white-skinned, blue-eVed, "and golden-haired Aryans, like 
their kinsmen of Northern Europe, entered India from the plateau 
of Central Asia, which was then a land of romantic mystery, came 
to this land of the black-skinned non-Aryans, made an easy and 
matter-of-course conquest of them, and imposed upon an inferior 
race or races their superior religion, culture, and language, /it was 
believed that all the better elements in Hindu religion and eulturc 
— its deeper philosophy, its finer literature, its more reasonable orga- 
nization, everything in fact which was great and good and noble 
in it — came from the Ar^^ans as a superior white race; and what- 
ever was dark and lowly and superstitious in Hindu religion and 
civilization represented only an expression of the suppressed non- 
Aryan mentality. This view is nov/ being gradual) v abandoned. 
It has been generally admitted, particularly after a study of both 
the bases of Dravidian and Aryan culture through language and 
through institutions, that the Dravidians contributed a great many 
elements of paramount importance in the evolution of Hindu civi- 
lization, which is after all (like all other great civilizations) a com- 
posite creation, and that in certain matters the Dravidian and Aus- 
tria contributions are deeper and more extensive than that of the 
Aryans. The pre-Aryans of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa were cer- 
tainly in possession of a highe^ material culture than what the semi- 
nomadic Aryans could show. \ 

The assumption that the Mohenjo-daro and Harappa people 
spoke a primitive Dravidian speech accords best with the subse- 
quent trend of Indian history and civilization. From various aspects, 
a mediterranean origin of the Dravidian people, its religion and civi- 
lization. appears to find good support. Reference may be made in this 
connexion to the city culture of Harappa and the ancient cities of 
Sind described in the next chapter(^On the positive side, the cult of 
Siva and the institution of Yoga appear to have been characteristic 
of the religious life of the people of Sind and South Punjab. The 
Aryans knew of a Sky Father — Dyaush Pita — and of an Earth 
Mother — Prithin Mata — but these divinities were vague nature dei- 
ties, who merely typified the falling of the rain from the skv to help 
earth to produce corn and fruits. T5ie Kols (e.g. the Santals) had 
similarly a Sun god (Siti Bonqa) and a Moon goddess (f^inda Chando) 
who were the great Father and Mother deities in the Kol pantheon. 
But the Dravidians had a conception of the forces of Life and of 
the Universe in the forms of a Great Mother Goddess and her male 
counterpart a Father God, and this conception, which was more 
profound, more mystic, more all-embracing and more deeplv philo- 
sophical as well as more p6etic than the simole Aryan idea of a 
material Sky Father and an equally material Earth Mother, the 
Dravidians appear to have brought to India from their original 

160 



RACE MOVEMENT AND PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

homeland in the islands of the ^Egean and the tracts of mainlana 
along the iEgean Sea — Greece' and Asia Minor. Ma or Kubele 
(Cybele) and Atthis, or Hepit and Teshup, the great Asianic Mother 
Goddess and Father God, the fornier having as her symbol or vehicle 
the lion, the latter the bull^ form undoubtedly one,o/ the bases on 
which the &iva-Uma cult of Hindu India grew up. J) 

From linguistics, it can be reasonably assumed that the oldest 
form of the word Tamil or Dravi(^ ( which we can trace) was pro- 
bably "Dramila or '^Dramiza. We find that the Lycians of Asia 
Minor, a pre-Indo-European Mediterranean people, called them- 
selves in their inscriptions (written in their own speech in a script 
allied to the ancient Greek) TniaitUi. Herodotus has noted that 
the Lycians originally came from the island of Crete, and that in 
Crete the pre-Hellenic Asianic people were known by a name which 
the Greeks wrote as Termilai. It would not perhaps be too much 
to assume that some at least of the Dravidian speakers of India who 
came ultimately from the Eastern Mediterranean tracts brought 
with them one of their national or tribal appellations Termilai — 
Trmmli- Dr aviiza, which became transformed into the modern 
name Tamil by the middle of the first millennium A.D. In South 
Sind, the Greeks noted a people called Arahiiai: they might very 
well have been Dravidian speakers in the fourth century B.C., and 
the name suggests the one which the Telugus apply to the Tamilians 
— Aravalu: and Arava is explained scholastically as the Sanskrit 
word a-rava “speechless^ voiceless,*' suggesting the unintelligibility 
of Tamil as a language for the Telugus. Be that as it may, the 
culture- world presented by Dravidian (Tamil) linguistic palaeon- 
tology gives a fairly high background of civilization, which can be 
compared with what has been unearthed at Mohenjo-daro and other 
places, and with such indirect references to non-Aryan (Dravidian) 
civilization and non-Aryan milieu as can be found in the Vedic 
writings. In 1856, Bishop Caldwell gave the following sketch of 
the pre-Ayan civilization of th^Dravidians from the evidence of 
the words in use among the early Tamilians^ (I give the Tamil 
words within brackets after the English words): The Tamils or 
Dravidians '‘had ‘kings’ (ko, ventan, mannan) who dwelt in ‘strong 
houses’ (koftai, aran) and ruldd over small ‘districts of country’ 
(uatu). They had ‘minstrels’ (pulavan) Who recited ‘songs' (cfiey- 
liul) at ‘festivals’ (kontdttam, tiraviza); and they seem to have had 
alphabetical characters (ezuttu) written (varai) with a style (iraku) 
on palmyra leaves (olai) and a bundle of leaves was called a ‘book* 
(etu); they acknowledged the existence of God, whom they styled 
Ko or king — a realistic title known to orthodox Hinduism. They 
created to his honour a ‘temple’ which they called Ko-il, God’s 
house (koyi/, ko?ni). They had ‘laws' and ‘customs’ (katfalai, pazak- 
kam), but no lawyers or judges. Marriage existed among them. 

161 



THE VEDIC AGE 


xney were acquainted with tjie ordinary metals, with the excep- 
tion of ‘tin,’ ‘lead’ and ‘zinc,’ with the planets which were ordi- 
narily known to the ancients (e.g. veUi =z 'Yenus/ die way ‘Mars,’ 
uij/dzamiz! ‘Jupiter’) with the exception of ‘Mercury’ and ‘Saturn’. 
They had ‘medicines’ (maruntu), ‘hamlets’ (pa{{i) and ‘towns’ [ur, 
pefjai), ‘canoes,’ ‘boats,' and even ‘ships’ (.small ‘decked' coasting 
vessels — tdnl, otarn^ vallam; kappal, patavu)^ no acquaintance with 
any people beyond the sea, except in Ceylon, which was then, per- 
haps, accessible on foot at low water; and no word expressive ot 
the geographical idea of ‘island’ or ‘continent.’ They were w^ell 
acquainted with ‘agriculture’ (er:::i;‘plough,' velan-mai ‘agricul- 
ture’), and delighted in ‘war.’ They w^ere armed with ‘bows’ (vil) 
and ‘arrow^s’ (avipu), with ‘spears’ {vel) and ‘swords’ ival). All 
the ordinary or necessary arts of life, including ‘spinning’ (mil), 
*w^eaving’ mey), and ‘dyeing’ [niram) existed among them. They 
excelled in ‘pottery,’ as their places of sepulture show.” The late 
Professor P. T. Srinivasa Aiyangar (Iyengar) compiled a remark- 
able work, in which, on the basis of native Dravidiaii words in 
Old Tamil, he has given us a most detailed survey of the type of 
culture in all its ramifications which obtained among the Primitive 
Tamil or Dravidian people before they began to come under the 
influence of the Aryan speech and culture. 

Hindu tradition is vaguely conscious of Hindu religious ideas 
and philosophy, practices and ritual falling under two great cate- 
gories — ^gama and nigama. Nigama stands for the Vedic. i.e. the 
pure Aryan world of ideas, centring round what has been called the 
Vedic karmak^nda, the practical religion df Vedic inspiration in 
which the homa or fire-sacrifice to the gods of the Vedic world forms 
the most noteworthy thing. Agama indicates what may be describ- 
ed as the Tantric and Puranic domain of religion and ritual, and it 
includes yoga as a special form of mystico-religious ideology and 
practice. Pure Nigama religion is what we see in the great Vedic 
sacrifices which are still performed from time to time. Agamic 
religion and ritual is largely influenced by the Nigamic or Vedic, 
but it forms a world apart. 

In ordinary Hindu usage, there is a good deal of compromise 
between the two. Take, for example, the distinctive Hindu ritual 
of the piijd, by which we mean the worship of an image or a symbol 
of the divinity by treating the latter, after it has been consecrated, as 
a living personality, and bringing before it, as before a living being, 
cooked food, vestments, ornaments, and other offerings which arc 
usable by a man, and showing grateful worship by offering to it 
flowers, the produce of the earth, and incense, and by waving lights 
in front of it and playing and singing before it. This is something 
which is Cjuile different from the Vedic rite of the homa. in which 
a wood fire is lighted on an altar and certain offerings of food in the 

167 



RACE MOVEMENTS AND PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

shape of meat and fat, butter and, milk) cakes of barley, and soma or 
spirituous drink, are offered to the gods, who are not at all symbo- 
lized by an image, but are supposed to dwell in the sky and to receive 
these offerings through the fire. 

The characteristic offerings in the pujd rite, viz. flowers, leaves 
fruits, water, etc., are not known to the homa rite, except in instan- 
ces where it has been influenced by the pujd. lit has been suggested 
with good reason that piljd is the pre-Aryan, in all likelihood the 
Dravidian, form of worship, while the homa is the Aryan: and 
throughout the entire early Vedic literature, the pujd ritual with 
flowers etc. offered to an image or symbol is unknown. The word 
pujd^ from a root puj, appears, like the thing it co-nnotes, to be of 
Dravidian origin also. This word or root is not found in any Aryan 
or Indo-European language outside India. Professor Mark Collins 
suggested ' ‘ that the Sanskrit word pujd (from which the root puj 
was deduced later) was nothing but a Dravidian pit “flower” plus 
root “to do” (palatalized to je)^ which is found in Tamil as c/iey, 
in Kannada as gc and in Telugu as che: pujd < *"pu-pe, ’'"pit-che 
was thus a “flower ritual,” a “flower service,” a pushpa-karma, just 
as homa described as pasu-karma or religious service entailing the 
slaughter of an animal. Jarl Charpentier of Sweden derived piljd 
from a Dravidian root pusu meaning “to smear,” as the smearing 
of sandalpaste or blood forms an important item in the piljd ritual. 
But the use of blood, to be smeared over a piece of stone represent- 
ing a god or spirit — the blood of a sacrificed animal being later re- 
placed by red paint like the vermilion — would appear more to be 
an Austric or Proto- Australoid rite than Dravidian . ) 

In any case, the pre-Aryan, and in all likelihood Dravidian, 
origin of this most noteworthy ritual of a finished Hindu religion, 
would appear to be quite reasonable to assume. ( In the present-day 
texture of Hindu culture and religion the warp appears to be Dra- 
vidian and the weft Aryan. Piljd with flowers, leaves, and water 
was, so far as the first Aryans who came to India were concerned, 
an alien rite, a local “native” usage, not to be approved, much less 
adopted, by the Brahmanas and others who claimed to be true Aryans. 
But “Greece captured her capWr”. The native or local cults and 
creeds did not die — on the other hand the* exotic homa largely be- 
came moribund, being kept up artificially among limited groups 
of Brahmanas and Kshatriyas, and the piljd came to assume its 
present important place in the religious life of the mixed Hindi> 
people which resulted from the fusion of the Aryan and the non- 
Aryan. The first conscious attempt to give the imprimatur to piljd 
as a rite, which is to be taken sympathetically, we find in that great 
work of synthesis in Hindu thought and life, the Bhagavad-Gdtd of 
the Mahdbhdraia, which would appear to have been compiled round 

161 



THE VEDIC age 


about the age of Christ; although through certain surreptitious rites 
like kdkd-hali or offerings to crows and other birds, something ana- 
logous to the pdjd was being given a place in the Gnhya or domestic 
rites of the blue-blooded Aryan householders. The Gitd passage 
(TX.26) runs^ thus: 

patram pushpam phalam toyayi yo me hhaktyd prayachchhati, 

tad -r- akam hhakty-upahritam asndmi prayatdtmanah: 

“If anyone offers me with devotion a leaf, a flov.^er, a fruit, and 
water^ I receive that, offered in devotion by the person whose soul 
is disciplined.” 

The context makes it clear that here we have an apology for non- 
Vedic worship ins-d-vis the Vedic lire-sacrifice: this verse, in fact, 
forms the great charter for the pujd ritual within the milieu of Vedic 
Brahmanism. 

The acceptance of pre-Aryan iDravidianj ritual meant also 
the acceptance of the conception of the divinity and of the mytho- 
logical figures of the gods and goddesses which were current among 
them. In mediaeval and modern Hinduism, certain divinities stand 
paramount like Siva and Uma, Vishnu (specially in his incarnations 
of Rama and Krishna) and Sri, together with some other gods and 
goddesses of a secondary character who claim the homage of 
the people like Hanumant, Ganesa and Sitala. The popular gods 
of the Vedic Aryans — Indra, Agni, Varuna, Soma, Surya, Ushas, 
Pushan, Parjanya and the rest — gradually recede into the back- 
ground, and a group of more puissant and more personal gods, more 
profound and cosmic and more philosophical in their conception, 
the Puranic gods of Hinduism headed by Siva-Uma and Sn-Vishr;u, 
become established. As it has been said before, Siva and Uma 
are in all likelihood fundamentally of Dravidian origin, and as such, 
they are the Indian modification — and philosophic sublimation — 
of the great Mother-Goddess and her consort of the Mediterranean 
peoples. The name Siua has been explained as being at least partly 
of Dravidian origin: in Tamil, for instance^ Sivan (Ciiivan) means 
red, and the divinity was known to the early Aryans as Nlla-lohita 
“the Red One with blue (throat)” (referring to the legend found 
in the Puranas of later times and unquestionably mentioned in 
Rigveda, (X. 136, vii), of Siva having drunk up the world poison 
and preserved it in his throat which became marked with blue for 
this). Sarnbhu, another common name or epithet of Siva, has been 
compared with the Tamil chempu or sembu meaning “copper," 
i.e, “the red metal.” Siva and the Vedic Rudra have been identified: 
it is just likely that the name of the Red God of the Dravidian 
streakers, the most important divinity in their pantheon, was first 
rendered into the Aryan speech as *Rudhra^ and then this name 
w^as easily identified with an already existing Aryan Storm God, the 

164 



HACE MOVEMENTS AND PREHlSTOtllC CULTURE 


lather of the Maruts or the Storm Winds, whose name Rudra in 
Aryan meant quite a different thing — “the Roarer” (from root 
The name Urn.d recalls Md, the Great Mother of the Asianic 
and East Mediterranean peoples; and Durgd, as one of the common 
epithets of the Mother Goddess Uma, we can compare with TrqqaSj 
a deity mentioned in the Lycian inscriptions of Asia Minor. ’ 
Vishnu is partly Aryan, a form of the Sun-God, and partly at least 
the deity is of Dravidian affinity, as a sky-god whose colour was of 
the blue sky (cf. Tamil, vt-ri “sky” and the Middle indo-Aryan or 
Prakrit form of Vish^iu, which was viritiu, ventiu)/-^ Sri is, to start 
with, an Aryan divinity, the Indian counterpart of the Goddess 
connected with the harvest or corn and with wealth, beauty, and 
well-being, whom we find in the Italic world as Ceres among 
the Latins. But in her association with Vishnu, as Gaja-lakshrn? 
for instance, she is indigenous and pre-Aryan.^^ Krishna (in Pr^rit 
KdnhcL, in Tamil Kaiinan) is a demon opposed to Indra in the ^ig- 
veda; according to P. T. Srinivasa Aiyaiigar, he represents, partially 
at least, a Dravidian God of Youth, who has later been identihed with 
Vishhu as an incarnation of his. 

Another Dravidian God of Youth and youthful powers, of bra 
very and war, was Murukan, who in the composite Puranic mytho- 
logy became Kurndra or Skanda, the son of Siva.^^ Ganesa^ the 
elephant-headed demon who was to be appeased at the outset of any 
function to avert supernatural hindrances, remained such a demon 
with the Mahayana Buddhists, but with the Brahmanical Hindus he 
was transformed into the benign god who removes obstacles and 
who typifies wisdom. The very character of the god as having an 
elephant-head shows his native Indian, i.e. pre- Aryan origin. 

The phallic symbol of Siva, the linga, appears to be, both in its 
form and name, of Austric or Proto-Australoid origin. We should 
remember that the mysterious upright conical stones set up on the 
ground (like the menhirs in the Celtic areas in Europe) were very 
much in evidence as cult objects among the Mon-Khmers and the 
Kols, and these bore a resemblance to the digging stick used among 
them as a primitive plough; and Jean Przyluski has shown, as it 
has been noted before, how the words Unga, lakut^iy lagu^ctj langula 
are of Austric origin. But the figure of 6iva as the great Yogin, 
seated in yogic meditation, as Virupdksha or “the terrible One.” 
as Pasupati or “the Lord of Animals, or Souls,” as Urdhva-Unga 
or “the One with the erect creative force,” — in fact, all the deeper 
and more philosophical traits in the conception of 6iva appeaV 
to have been known among the Mohenjo-daro people, as shown by 
the very important seal with the figure .of a divinity who can only 
be identified with Siva of later times.^^ And assuming that the 
Mohenjo-daro and Harappa people were Dravidian speakers, this 
would be only another corroboration of the 6iva idea and the Siva 

165 


V A.— n 



THE VEDIC AGE 


legends being of Dra vidian origin: only this symbol of the Liiiga in 
the gourhpatfa or yoni being derived to some extent from the Austric 
menhirs, which survived till recently in the Muh<;la sasan-diris or 
family burial stones. 

Zoomorphic divinities, or lower animals as typifying the forces 
of nature and supplying symbols or figures for the supernatural or 
tiie godhead, appear to have been known to the Aryans only to a 
limited extent. Thus Indra and other powerful gods have been 
compared wuth bulls or rams, and Agni with the horse, and there 
IS also the divine horse named Dadhikrdvaii in the Veda. But 
the extent to which zoomorphic deities came into prominence in 
Puranic Hinduism is something noteworthy, rivalling the ancient 
Egyptian pantheop in this respect. The submerged toiemism of the 
Proto-Australoids possibly was the oldest and most powerful source 
of influence for this, and the worship of the Nagas or serpentine 
deities and water spirits would appear to have come from the 
Proto- Australoids. Garii^a as the vehicle bird of Vishnu is partly 
a divine eagle — Supania — of the Aryans and partly of Dravidian 
or Mediterranean origin; the name would appear to be Dravidian 
[cL Tamil kazu “kite, eagle '). The sacredness of the ox and the 
cow may have some Aryan elements in it, but the honour paid to 
the cow among the Iranian Aryans might be, at its basis, of Dasa- 
Dasyu origin, as much as in India. 

The great zoomorpliic deity of India is of course Hanumanl, 
the so-called Monkey-God. His greatness has no doubt been added 
to in later times by the Bhakti school of mediaeval Hinduism, which 
saw in him an ideal devotee of Kama, God incarnate as the hero of 
the Rdmdyana legend. But in popular belief throughout the greater 
part of India (in Bengal alone his worship is not so intensely popu- 
lar), he is something more than a simple Bhakia or devotee. He 
is a fertility deity, who gives children to barren women; and he 
is the helper at need and remover of obstacles. It seems, as F.E. 
Pargiter's significant research^^ into the name of Hanumant war- 
rants us in assuming, that there was a great Monkey-God who ob- 
tained the worship of the pre- Aryan peoples (namely Dravidians) 
of India, and whose name was in the Dravidian speech just “the 
Male Monkey” (in Tamil, An-manti), The Aryan speakers came 
to know this god, and his name was at first translated into the 
Aryans' language as Vrishd-kapi. His worship was slowly entering 
by the back-door among the Aryan speakers through contact with 
\he Dravidians, and this was resented by a certain element among 
the Aryan people: but others were acquiescing in the introduction 
of this “native” cult. An. echo of this ideological conflict we find 
in the Vrishd-kapi hymn of the Rigveda (X. 86). But Vrishd-kapl 
became admitted into the newly formed Aryan-non-Aryan pan- 
theon, and his original Dravidian name An-manti, as in Tamil, was 

166 



RACE MOVEMENTS AND PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

then Sanskritized into Hanuniant, and under this name he is still 
a powerful deity in popular Hinduism, the sublimation of his cha- 
racter by Bhakti adding but fresh lustre to his pristine popularity 
as a strong helper in need and remover of distress, the rough and 
ready god of a primitive people. 

The extent to which the Aryan religion has been modified by 
Austnc and Diavidian contacts is sufficient indication of the pro- 
found influences exerted by the latter in the evolution of the Hindu 
religion. There has been a widespread racial mixture, as anthro- 
pology has indicated. In culture, speaking in the Indian way, one 
may say that over twelve annas in the rupee is of non-Aryan origin. 
The bases of Indian economy — food trice or wheat or millet with 
pulses or lentils as relish, milk products like ghe^ and curds, vege- 
tables, occasionally a little goat or mutton, and fish and oil of various 
sorts where milk is not common, as opposed to the Aryan meal of 
barley cakes and meat and butter), dress tunsewn cotton cloth 
worn in three pieces as diioil or sari i.e. loincloth, dupaftd or shawl, 
and liead-cloth or turban, in place of the woollen garments of the 
Aryans), and dwelling, are pre-Aryan; our way of thinking is un- 
Aryan — the syntax of the later Indo-Aryan dialects agrees more 
with that of the Dravidian languages than with that of Vedic and 
of the extra-Indian Indo-European languages; our counting and com- 
putation is largely on the basis of eight, which is Dravidian (Mark 
Collins has explained ompattu the Tamil word for “nine’’ as being 
really the Aryan loia “one less ’ plus Tamil pctiiii “ten, ’ and the 
Telugu tormnidi as really meaning “broken ten’’ thus suggesting 
that eight was the common number in computation), combined to 
some extent with counting by tens, wffiich is Aryan, and to a slight 
extent on tlic basis of twenty as the highest number, which is 
Austric (as Jean Przyluski has shown). Many of our social insti- 
tutions and conventions (e.g., certain usages regarding prohibited 
degrees in marriage, and customs like a wife being on familiar 
terms with her husband s younger brother but regarding his elder 
brother as her father) and a good many of our wedding and other 
customs (e.g. the practice known as stvi’-dchdrci with its attendant 
paraphernalia of the various produce of the earth arranged in a 
winnowing fan, the use of turmeric and vermilion in the wedding 
ritual, the employment of the coconut and betel-leaf in many of our 
ceremonies) arc of non- Aryan origin. We have a fairh'^ extensive 
clement from the Austric and the Dravidian languages in our Indo- 
Aryan speech: the number— at least a hundred for Austric, anc? 
some four hundred and fifty for Dravidian as given by Kittel in his 
Kannaifa Dictionary — seems to be on tha way to increase the more 
our knowledge of this matter is deepening and widening. Tn their 
phonetics. Indo-Aryan, Austric and Dravidian have converged more 
or less to a common Indian sound-system. Despite a number of 

167 



THE VEDIC AGE 


noteworthy differences due toi origijial diversity of race and si^eech 
and to climatic and economic conditions, the bases of Indian pre- 
Aryan (Austric and Dravidian) life and culture, modified by the 
language and ideology of the Aryans, and later by the ideology of 
Islam, still remain, and they form a specifically Indian background 
for a civilization and an outlook that may be described as pan- 
Indian. 

The discovery of Mycenaean artifacts in Greece has proved 
the truth of what the great explorer of i^i:gean culture, Sir Arthur 
Evans, had suspected^ that a good deal of the heroic legends of 
Greece as well as of the legends of their gods and goddesses was 
of pre-Hellenic, i.e. pre-Indo-European, /Egean or Mediterranean 
origin, and these were simply Hellenized by being rendered into 
the Indo-European language of the Greeks as soon as this language 
became established on its new territory. The stories of the Iliad 
and the Odyssey and of CEdipus and other heroes were according 
to this view of ^gean origin, and this has been corroborated, in 
spirit at least, for some other connected legends. A similar thing 
appears to have taken place in India. Myths and legends of God?; 
and Heroes current among the Austrics and Dravidians, long ante- 
dating the period of Aryan advent in India (c. 1500 B.C.), appear to 
have survived the Aryan impact and to have been rendered intc> 
the Aryan language in late and garbled, or “improved,'’ versions 
accommodating themselves to the Aryan God- and Hero- worlds, 
and it is these myths and legends of gods, kings, and sages which 
we largely find in the Puranas. The Rama legend looks like a 
blend of three distinct stories without any historicity put together 
at different times (the Ayodhya intrigue and the banishment of 
Rama, the abduction of Sita and her recovery by Rama, and the 
episode of the monkey princes), and seems to have grown up in 
Eastern India, with an Austric background; but later it was re- 
edited as a national poem within the gorgeous framework of the 
composite and highly complex Hindu civilization of 2,000 years 
ago. The Mahabharata story, on the other hand, which developed 
in the Midland (present-day Western United Provinces and Eastern 
Punjab), would appear to embody a good deal of the legends, tradi- 
tions, and history of the Aryans as well as of the mixed Aryan-non- 
Aryan peoples, and was created consciously as the national poem of a 
new Hindu nation of mixed origin welded into one people under 
Brahmana guidance. Viewed in this light, the pre-Vedic antiquity 
of a number of heroic tales and legends and dynastic “histories’" 
as being really pre- Aryan, possibly Dravidian, can be properly 
understood, as cases of rendering in the Aryans* language of pre- 
Aryan material. 

On the ideological plane, the synthesis of the Aryan and non- 
Aryan mentalities and attitudes towards life has given rise con- 

168 



RACE MOVEMENTS AND. PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

sciously as well as unconsciously to a common set of ideals which 
are actively practised, or are sub!^cribed to, by the greater part of 
Indian humanity, and these ideals are along the following lines: a 
wSense of the unity of all life through its being an expression of an( 
Unseen Reality ^ which is both immanent and transcendent; a desire 
for synthesis, to combine apparently disconnected or discordant 
fragments in life as well as experience in their proper place in an 
essential unity; a rigid and intransigent adherence to the intellect 
while seeking to harmonize it in the higher plane with the emotions 
and with the mystic sense; a recognition of the sorrows of life, 
leading to a sincere attempt to go to the root causes of these with 
a view to remove them from the life of the individual, the com 
munity, and the whole of humanity; a desire to attain to the Unseen 
Reality as the solution of all evil and suffering through the ways 
of knowledge, of mystic realization by discipline, faith, and devo- 
tion, and of clisiiiterested service; a sense of the sacredness of all 
life which is sought to be maintained by passive non-injury (ahimsa), 
by intellectual pity (karuna)^ and by practical charity and well- 
doing (viaitri); and an acceptance of all spiritual experiences as 
true and as inevitable, and a tolerance for all of these so long as 
they do not interfere with the rights of others. A broad toleration 
which is the result of a wide understanding, and the doctrine of 
“live and let live” — these characterized, or formed the bedrock of 
the civilization of India; and this attitude was the result of this 
civilization being in its origin a complex harmony of composites, 
where there has not been any consciously active or successful strug- 
gle to maintain the racial, linguistic and cultural superiority of one 
of the component elements over the others. 

The speakers of the Austric, Dravidian and Indo-European 
Aryan tongues, racially Proto Australoids, Mediterraneans, Nordics, 
Alpines, and Binaries, made up the Indian people and built up the 
civilization of India. After this civilization had taken its definite 
colour and its special orientation, by the middle of the first millen- 
nium R . C. another new racial and culture-language element came 
into India — the Mongoloid Sino-Tibetan speakers — the Kiratas; but 
they touched only the fringe of India in the north and the north-east 
and their influence was but local, and not of much significance. 
According to a Tibetan tradition of very doubtful value, the Tibetans 
first settled in Tibet during the time of the Buddha. But it was 
over a thousand years after that, in the seventh century A. D., that 
they came in active contact with India — an India which was al- ^ 
ready far advanced in her composite Aryan-non-Aryan culture. 
The various Sino-Tibetan tribes were in a very primitive and back- 
ward condition and they did not have mifbh to give to the Indians, 
of Austric-Dravidian-Aryan affinities and origin. There is a Mon- 
goloid stratum in the Himalayas and in the tracts immediately to the 

m 



THE VEDIC AGE 


south, in Assam, in North and East Bengal; and in the evolution of 
Aryan languages like Gorkhali or Nepali, Bengali and Assamese, 
some Sino-Tibetan (Tibetn-Burman) influence has been suggested. 
The Sino-Tibetan peoples, at least those among them who could 
benefit by their contact with Indian culture, thoroughly imbibed it 
and, like the Newars of Nepal valley, became fully Indianized. It 
is only v^here they are remote from the Aryan-speaking Indians that 
they are able to maintain their separate identity a little; but their 
absorption into an Aryan-speaking Indian body>politic is inevitable, 
whether in Nepal or in Bengal or in Assam. But in the process 
of their becoming completely Indianized, they are sure to make 
at least some temperamental contribution to the Indian populations 
of the north and the north-east, if not much in the way of the material 
or spiritual: and it is for the future to disclose what line this Kirata, 
this Indo-Mongoloid or Mongoloid contribution to Indian mentality 
and culture will take.^*^ 

t. Thf> Censvs of India, 1901. 

2. Indo^Aryan Races, I, Rajshahi, 1916. 

3. T^e Cens^is of India. 1931, Vol. I. pp. ^24 fT. 

4. ‘facial afiiiiities of the Peoples of India^’ in The Censnis of India, 1931, Vol. I, 
Part HI (1935); An outline of the Racial Ethnoloav of India, Calcutta, 1937. 

5. Racial Elements in th-c Rovulation, No. 22 of “Oxford Pamphlets on Indian 
Affairs.” Oxford University Press, Bombay, 1944. 

6. For a detailed discussion on these points, cf. Ch. X. 

7. Racial Elements in the Population, p. 26. 

8. The Census of India, 1931. Report, Part T. p. 443. 

9. For these, cf. Ch. VIL 

10. Cf. Mata-^Hari by Renward Brandstetter, Lucerne. 1908. BrandsteUer's lingjuistic 
papers on Indonesian are available in English translation by C. 0. Blagden 
(RASB, London). 

11. Some of the important papers in this connection have been translated from 
French into English by Dr. P.C. Bagchi with additional notes and papers in his 
Pre-Aryan and Pre-Dravidian in India (Calcutta University, 1929). 

12. S. K. Chatterji, “Two New Indo-Aryan Etymologies” in the ZII, Band 9, 
Leipzig, 1933-34, pp. 31 ff. 

13. P.C. Bagchi, Pre- Aryan and. Pre~Dravidian in India; J. Przyluski, “Hippokoura 
et Satakami” (JRAS, 1929, pp. 274-9; English translation in JAHRS, Vol. IV. 
Part I, 1930); S. K. Chatterji, “Non-Arj^an Elements in Indo-Aryan” (JGIS, 
m, 42). 

14. P. Mitra, “A Vedic Night of the Moon in Polynesia,” Calcutta Oriental Journal, 
Vol. I, July, 1934. 

15. W. G. Archer, The Blue Grove, the Poetry of the Oraons (London, 1940), p. 19. 

16. A resume of Hevesy’s views has been given joy Dr. Biren Bonnerjee in IC, 1937, 
pp. 621-32. 

16a. J. Przyluski, “Emprunts anaryens en Indo-aryes,” Le Monde Oriental, Vol. 28 
(1934), pp. 140 ff. 

16b. For Dasa-Dasjru, cf. also Ch. XIII. 

16c. The Vedic speech would seem to have been written down in a sort of Proto- 
Brahmi as an adaptation of the pre-Aryan Harappa and Mohenjo-daro script 
for the Aryan language in the tenth century B.C., when “Vyasa,” contemporary 
of the Mahdhharata battle, could compile the Veda books from the floating 
mass of oral religious literature current among the Aryans — and Vyasa, accord- 
ing to a tradition preserved by Al-Biruni. rediscovered for the Hindus their 
alphabet. (For different views about the date of the Mahdbhdraia battle, cf. 

Ch. xrv). 

17. Comparative Grammar of the Dravidian Languages, third edition (1913), p. 113. 

18. Pre- Aryan Tamil Culture, Madras, 1930. 

19. Dravidic Studies, No. IH (University of Madras), pp. 59 ff. 

170 



RACE MOVEMENTS AnId PREHISTORIC CULTURE 

20. P. T. Srinivasa Aiyangar (Iyengar)! Life in Ancient India in the Age of the 
Mantras (Madras, 1912), p. 125; Dravidic Studies, No. Ill, pp. 61-2. 

21 . S. K. Chattierji, “Dravidian Origins and the Beginnings of Indian Civilization,” 
(MR, Dec. 1924, p. 679). 

22. P.T.S. Aiyangar, op.cit., p. 126. 

23. Dravidic Studies, No. Ill, p. 62. 

24. Cf. also Pre- Aryan Tamil Cultnre. 

25. Cf. Ch. IX. 

26. JRAS, 1913, p. 400. 

27. For the Kiratas or Indo-Mongoloids, see Kasten Ronnow in Le Monde Oriental 
Vol. XXX (1936), pp. 90-169. 


171 



CHAPTER IX 


THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION 

Until as recently as 1922, early Indian history had little actual 
remains to offer besides the meagre palaeolithic and neolithic finds, 
described above (Ch. VII), and the Piprahwa relic was the oldest 
object of which the date (c. fifth century B.C.) could be approxi- 
mately determined. The antiquity of Indian history and culture 
as gleaned from Vedic literature is also not supposed to go beyond 
the second millennium before Christ. But the archaeological dis- 
coveries at Harappa, Mohenjo-daro and other localities (see map 
No. 2) in the Indus valley have pushed back this limit, at a single 
stretch, to 3000 B.C., if not to a still remoter period, and India 
can now lay claim to the honour of being a pioneer of civilization 
along with Sumer, Akkad, Babylon, Egypt, and Assyria. 

The fascinating story of the excavations at various jdaces in the 
Indus vallej'^ has been told above (Ch. Till and we shall rH)w try to 
reconstruct a picture of the culture and civilization that flourished 
in this region from the remains found principally at Harappa and 
Mohenjo-daro. 


1. THE TOWN 

A visitor to the ruins at Mohenjo-daro (the city of the deadl ’ 
is struck by the remarkable skill in town-planning and sanitation 
displayed by the ancients, and, as an English writer has observed, 
“feels himself surrounded by ruins of some present-day working 
town in Lancashire,’’ The city was entered from the north and 
south by the First Street, which is amply wide for both wheeled 
traffic and pedestrians. East Street, which is the main thorough- 
fare through the ruins is wider than First Street. The junction 
of these two is nicknamed “Oxford Circus” by archaeologists. 

The city was the creation of careful forethought and planning, 
as is indicated by the striking regularity of the divisions, the suc- 
cessfully aligned streets, the orientation of all principal streets to 
the points of the compass, the correspondence of the houses and 
public buildings with the orientation of thoroughfares, etc. Streets 
varied from 9 feet to 34 feet in width and ran straight sometimes as 
far as half a mile. They intersected at right angles dividing the 
eity into square or rectangular blocks. Inside this square or ob- 
long, the area is intersected by a number of narrow lanes crowded 
with houses. Each lane h^s a public well, and most of the houses 
have each a private well and a bath. Nowhere was a building 
allowed to encroach on a public highway as in Sumer. The angles 

172 









NEC’KLACKS, I\IOHKNJO-nARO fSr 





PLATE IV 



Coin'tc.rif: Arcliar()lf>(,irftl Surrci/ of India 
PERSONAL ORNAMENTS. MOIIENJO DARO (S:jv p . 178) 



PLATE V 



Couru'ntr Archdcological Snrrrij of India 

ARTS AND CRAFTS, MOHENJO-DARO (Si'c p. 183 i 

1. SQUIRREL IN FAIENCE, 3. BEAD CARVED WITH THREE MONKEYS. 

2. GLAZED fHGURE OF MONKEY. l-Ii. BRONZE DANCING GIRL. 




C< II' nt .',11 ■ A rv}ioe()logicnl Surrey oj India 

GREY STONE STATUE. HARAPI\-\ 2 RED STONE STATUE. HAHAPPa 2 STEATITE MALE HEAD. MOHENJO-DARO. 




PLATE /m 



1. FRACTIONAL BURIAL, MOHENJO-DARO (See p. W.U 



i 


Courtesy: Ari'iiacoloy'ical Sitrncy of India 
2. MODEL ANIMAL (HORSE). MOHENJO-DARO (See p. 1J)8) 



THE INDUS Vt^LLEY CIVILIZATION 


of the smaller by-ways appear to have been rubbed by pack-animals, 
and the corners of some buildiri^s wbre rounded off in order that 
loads might not be dislodged. The city had an elaborate drainage 
system consisting of horizontal and vertical drains, street drains, 
soakpits, etc., which is described later on. The indus^ial and com- 
mercial quarters as well as the lowly abodes of artisans and shop- 
keepers and the palatial mansions of the rich can easily be distin- 
guished among the ruins. The general impression is that of “a 
democratic bourgeois economy” as in Crete. 

L tjU^e architecture of Mohenjo-daro, in general, is plain and 
litarian, rather solid than beautiful. There are no sumptuous 
temples as in Sumer nor monumental tombs as on the Nile. In 
contrast to Sumer, there is an absence of round columns, recessed 
doorways, and semi-circular pilasters. The true arch was unknown 
and the corbelled arch and square or rectangular columns were 
used instead. aim in_ttie I ndus Vall e y w as to make life com- 

fortable and luxurious rather than refined or jirtisticJU 
' Harappa is larger in extent than Mohenjo-daro, and had a 
longer span of life, but presents nearly the same features. Wells 
at Harappa are rare as compared to Mohenjo-daro.''® The most 
remarkable and largest building at Harappa is the Great Granary, 
measuring 169 feet by 135 feet, which comprises two similar blocks 
with an aisle, 23 feet wide, between them. Each block has six 
halls, alternating regularly with five corridors, and each hall is fur- 
ther partitioned into four narrow divisions. Another discovery at 
Harappa is the workmen’s quarters, which comprise fourteen small 
houses built in two blocks separated by a long narrow lane. Each 
house is open on all sides, rectangular, and consists of a courtyard 
and two rooms. ^ 

At the hill sites in the narrow corridor between the Indus and 
the Kirthar range, excavated by Mr. Majumdar, bricks were never 
used as at Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, and other sites. Hill-side houses 
were made of stone at the base^up to a height of two to three feet. 
Mud, reed, and wood were''Tjsed in building superstructures. No 
fortifications were discovered at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa; on the 
outskirts of Ali Murad and Kohtras were found fortified palaces made 
of stone, which was but rarely used in the plains, not being easily 
available there. At sites around Lake Manchar, people lived in 
pile dwellings. 

In building walls, pavements, bath-rooms, drains, wells, etc. 
burnt brick, possibly made from ordinary alluvial soil, was lavi.shly 
used. Sun-dried brick was used only for foundations, packing rff 
terraces, etc. Bricks are ordinarily rectangular in shape, well made, 
and excellently preserved. Even at the»lowest levels we find well- 
made bricks which would be a credit even to a modern briek-maker. 
Wedge-.shaped bricks were invariably used in constructing wells. 



THE VEDrC AGE 


and were made in a mould. Sawi bricks were used in bath-rooms 
to ensure evenness of floor. •Curwed bricks, which were used for 
the building of bins lining of wells, have hitherto been found 
only at Chanhu-daro. None of the bricks have grooves or depres- 
sions. Brickkilns have been found at Mohenjo-daro. The colour 
of the bricks ranges from straw to bright red. 

Seven different layers have been recognized in the excavations 
at Mohenjo-daro. The antiquities in all these levels are homogene- 
ous, the only point of difference being the deterioration of masonry 
in the later occupation of the cities. Mud mortar was generally 
used as a cementing material. In drains, where more strength or 
binding force was required, lime and gypsum mortar were used. 
The joints in ^^Qilie of the brick- work are so fine that even a thin 
knife cannot be inserted in them. Occasionally, bitumen was used 
f oFwater proofing. 

Foundations were carried to considerable depths and crude 
brick was used for infilling. ^Buildings were erected on artificial 
mud platforms as a precaution against floods to which ancient Sind 
was subject. ^ 

In most walls bricks were laid in the English Bond method, in 
alternate headers and stretchers, care being taken to break the 
joints. A filling of clay or rubble was used between the faces in 
very thick walls in order to economize bricks. In most cases the 
vertical alignment of buildings is marvellous, indicating that a 
plumb bob or a similar instrument was used. This was done by 
placing each course a little back from the course below or by em- 
ploying specially moulded bevelled edged bricks. Walls surmount- 
ing pavement were wainscotted with bricks laid on edge standing 
3 feet above the floor level. 

The buildings thu.s far unearthed in the Indus Valley fall into 
three main classes: (i) dwelling houses, (ii) larger buildings, and 
fiii) public baths. 

There is much variation in the size of dwelling houses. The 
smallest have no more than two rooms, while the largest are so 
vast as to rank almost as palaces. Outside walls of the dwelling 
houses were severely plain. 

Ordinarily there was an entrance from the street side. The 
houses were quite commodious, divided into well sized rooms, con- 
taining wells and bath-rooms, and provided with covered drains con^ 
nected with street drains. The open court was the basic feature of 
house planning in the Indus Valley, as in Babylon. The courtyard 
which was usually paved with bricks laid flat was surrounded by 
chambers, and doors and windows opened into it. The kitchen was 
placed in a sheltered comer of the courtyard, and the ground floor 
contained store rooms, well chambers, bath, etc. Every house had 
a separate bath-room, placed at the street side, paved with care- 

174 



THE INDUS VAIJLEy CIVILIZATION 

fully laid burnt bricks, which Sloped to a corner containing the 
drain carrying off waste water/ Vertical drain pipes suggest that 
baths were constructed on the upper storeys also. Doors were 
possibly made of wood and were placed at the ends of the walls, 
not in the middle. Ordinary houses very rarely had windows in 
their outer walls. Possibly perforated lattices were used as win- 
dows or ventilators at the top of the wall. Stairways, made of 
solid masonry, are found in nearly every house. They were built 
straight and steep, with treads unusually narrow and high. In 
some cases, the stairways led to the upper storeys which contained 
the bath and the living and sleeping apartments. Roofs were flat 
and made of wood. It appears that no latrines were ordinarily 
provided, or they were situated at the top. Doorless chambers in 
some houses have variously been taken to be cellars, or cess pits 
for latrines, or sleeping apartments, or solid foundations as a pre- 
caution against floods, or treasure rooms.^ Practically every house 
had its own well, and public wells were placed between two houses, 
with a pavement of burnt brick which sloped down to a drain at 
one corner. Two wells have a square coping at the top, and two 
are elliptical in shape. Some form of windlasses appears to have 
been used for drawing -water. 

,X/The elaborate drainage sy.stem is a unique feature of the Indus 
Valley Civilization, the like of which has not yet been found in any 
othet' city of the same antiquity. Below principal streets and many 
lane.s ran a main drain, 1 to 2 feet deep, covered with brick or stone, 
and provided with sumps and inspection traps at regular intervals. 
Individual liouse drains, each one with its own sump pit, opened 
into the street drains, which in their turn onened into great culverts 
emptying into the river. All soak pits and drains were occasional- 
ly cleared by workmen, and drains were provided with manholes 
at intervals for cleaning. This elaborate drainage system, like the 
town-planning, constitutes a notable point of difference with Sumer, 
where the inhabitants had. in most cases, vertical pottery drainage 
shafts beneath their courtyards, but these had no outlet. 

As regards larger buildings, some, which were earlier indicated 
as temples, were later taken to be khans. With the possible excep- 
tion of the building housing the Great Bath, no building has yet 
been cleared which can definitely be called religious. The great 
structure near the Stfipa, with extra-thick outer walls, has been 
named the Collegiate Building, and probably housed some high 
official, the high priest, or a college of priests. A pillared hall, 80 
feet square, divided info long corridors interspersed with low beh- 
ches having even seats, ha.s the chief seat at right angles to the 
corridors. It mav probably have served for a public assembly. 

The Great Bath, which has been taken to be a part of a \^ast 
hydropathic establishment is *‘a swimming bath on a scale which 

175 



THE VEDIC AGE 


would do credit to a modern seaside hotel. The overall dimen- 
sions of the building housing if arc ^80 feet by 108 feet. The aHuaT 
bathing pool, measuring .‘59 feet by 23 feet with a depth of 8 feet, is 
situated in the middle of a quadrangle having verandahs on all 
sides. At either end, there is a" raised platform amt'-isTTlight of 
steps, with another platform at the base of each flight of steps. The 
floor is made of bricks laid on edge, and the walls have been made 
water-tight by employing specially trimmed brick in gypsum mor- 
tar with an inch of damp proof course oi Bitumen. There is a vault- 
ed ciilyert, 6 feet 6 inches high, at the soufh-'^estern corner, which 
could fill and empty the tank. On three sides at the back of the 
verar^ahs are various rooms and galleries. There is a spacious 
verandah with small rooms at the southern end. There are six en- 
trancesjtfi the building containing the bath. It cannot be definite!^ 
stated whether the Great Bath was used entirely for secular pur- 
poses or for religious ceremonies. 

Near the south-west corner of the Great Bath is a hammam or 
hot air bath. It has a number of rectangular platforms of brick 
about 5 feet high, having a series of vertical chases sunk in their 
sides. There is another similar building at Mohenjo-daro which 
shows that the Indus people understood the principle of the hypocaust 
and had Turkish baths. Another bath-room establishment consist- 
ed of two rows of bath-rooms separated by a narrow passage, each 
bath-room having a stairway, a narrow doorway and carefully 
paved floor. According to Dr. Mackay, these ablution places were 
meant for the priests, while the Great Bath was for the general 
public. 

The careful town-planning, adequate water supply, and effi- 
cient drainage system presuppose an advanced state of civic autho- 
rity. Lamp-posts at intervals indicate the existence of street light- 
ing. There was also a watch and ward system for different quar- 
ters, and large caravanserais and public store-houses were provided. 
That the sanitation was well looked after is seen from the rubbish 
heap consisting of broken pottery, ashes and humus found in deep 
trenches outside the city. Trees and plants were allowed to grow 
in the enclosures. The later levels of the city, however, show the 
decline of civic authority, as buildings were erected in a haphazard 
manner, there were encroachments upon lanes, and potters were 
qiiartcred in the city. 

2. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC LIFE 

‘ All the skeletons unearthed at Mohenjo-daro belong to the chal- 
colithic period and may be taken as representative of an urban 
population. Craniological tests reveal the presence of four racial 
types at Mohenjo-daro, viz., (i) Proto- Australoid: (ii) Mediterranean; 
(iii) Mongoloid and (iv) Alpinoid (ante, Ch. VIII). The cosmopoli- 

176 



THE INDUS ^ALLEY CIViUZATiON 

tan character of the population i2::^a place like Mohenjo-daro with easy 
land and water communications is quite natural. It was evidently 
the meeting ground of the people from different parts of Asia. Sculp- 
tural representations also speak of the mingling of diverse’ races. • 

Only a country capable of producing food on a large scale, and 
the presence of a river sulficiently large to facilitate transport, irri- 
gation, and trade, can give rise to cities of this size. The large num- 
Der or saddle querns found in the excavations indicates cultivation 
un an extensive scale. Though little is yet known about the actual 
methods of agriculture adopted by the people, the examination of 
the specimens of wheat and barley found in the ruins shows that 
they were not of the wild species. The same variety of wheat is 
cultivated in the Punjab today. The unit of weight indicates that 
rice was also grown.** The date palm was also an article of diet as 
is shown by the stones found. 

(^Besides wheat, barley, and rice, milk, too, must have been an 
"^important item of food, and doubtless vegetables and other fruits 
besides the date were included in the dietary. Harappa cultivated 
peas and sesamums. ’^^ In addition, animal food was eaten, includ- 
ing beef, mutton, pork, poultry, the flesh of the gharial^ turtle and 
tortoise, fresh-river fish and dried fish from the sea, and also shell 
fish. The half-burnt shells and bones of these animals found in 
houses, lanes, and streets definitely indicate that they were articles 
of diet. ^ 

(Animals were both domesticated and wild. Actual skeletal 
remains of the Indian humped bull, the buffalo, the sheep, the 
elephant, the pig, and the camel have been recovered. The Indian 
humped <)x, or *‘Brahmani bull,'’ is frequently represented on the 
seals. It seems to have been a sacred animal, as it is today. Bones 
of the horse have also been found, but not far below the surface. 
There is some difference of opinion on the subject, but on the grounds 
to be subsequently stated, it seems reasonable to suppose that horse 
was known to the Indus people. The cow was known, and so pro- 
bably was the lion. Clay models of toys indicate that the Indian 
bison, the rhinoceros, the tiger, the monkey, the dog, the bear, and 
the hare were known to the inhabitants. The donkey was known, 
and among smaller animals may be included the mongoose, the 
squirrel, the parrot, the peacock, and the domestic fowl. Harappa 
knew of the domestic cat.j 

|As regards dress, no actual specimens of ancient clothing have 
beendiscovered and we have to depend on the indications supplied 
by figurines and statuary. One alabaster statue shows that two 
garments were worn, A shawl-like clothj worn over the left shoulder 
and under the right arm so as to leave the right arm free, formed 
the upper garment. The lower garment resembled modern dhoti 
and was worn quite close to the body. Female attire did not differ 

111 



THE VEorc AGE 


from that of the male. Garments" were of cotton and perhaps of 
wool^ and possibly they were sewn, as would appear from the needles 
found at the site. . 

With regard to the various fashions of hair-dressing, we know 
more about male styles because the head-dresses worn by the female 
figurines prevent the hair from being seen. It is likely that women 
had a plait tied with a bow at the end, a favourite way of dressing 
the hair in modern India. Men wore long hair; this was either 
parted in the middle and the short locks at the back kept tidy by a 
woven fillet; or was coiled in a ring on the top of the head, similar 
side rings concealing the ears, or w’ere carried in a mass to the back; 
or a plaited lock was carried forward from behind in a large loop 
which turned in a^ain and was secured by a fillet. Short hair was 
secured by means of a fillet or was coilea in a knot with hair pins. 
These fillets were made mostly of gold, silver or copper. Men grew 
short beards or close-cropped them along with the upper lip, which 
was sometimes clean shaven. 

• With the traditional oriental fondness for ornaments, men and 
women, both rich and poor, decorated themselves with them and 
all known semi-precious stones and metals were utilized for manu- 
facturing various ornaments. Women wore a fan-shaped head- 
dress. Small cones of gold, silver, copper, and faience, as also of 
shell, were worn on the sides of the head. The forehead was deco- 
rated with a fillet or a headband. Ear-rings were made of coils of 
gold, silver, copper, or faience. It is doubtful whether any nose- 
ornaments were used. There was a variety of necklaces having 
pendants in the middle with a number of rows of beads of various 
shapes and materials artistically arranged using spacers and termi- 
nals. Finger-rings were plentiful, and bangles and bracelets were 
commonly used. Materials for bangles and bracelets were gold, 
silver, copper, bronze, faience, shell, and pottery. Gold and silver 
bangles were penannular in shape with their hollows filled with a 
fibrous or a lac core. A bracelet with six strings of globular beads 
is an excellent specimen of workmanship. Girdles, of which two 
fine specimens have been found, were worn round the waist. Ank- 
lets of the type still used by hill women round the Simla Hills were 
worn. Various stones such as camelian, steatite, agate, chalcedony, 
jasper, etc., were pressed into service in the manufacture of beads 
which evince fine workmanship and technical skill on the part of 
the lapidary. Of the various ornaments mentioned above, men 
wore fillets, necklaces, finger-rings, and armlets. A yellow steatite 
pectoral was probably the insignia of office of a priest. 

We can also form some idea about the toilet and cosmetics of 
the people. The ‘Vanity case” found at Harappa, with its combi- 
nation of piercer, ear-scoop, and tweezers, invites comparison with 
similar finds from Ur, Kish and Khafaje, both types showing the 

178 



THE INDUS VJ^LLEY CIVILIZATION 

same peculiar construction of tljLe los>p€d head. Toilet jars were 
made of ivory, metal, pottery, and stone. Small faience vessels 
having four compartments were used for keeping expensive per- 
fumes or cosmetics. It appears that the ladies at Mohenjo-daro 
knew of the use of collyrium, face-paint, and other cosmetics. Small 
cockle shells containing a red ochre rouge, lumps , of green earth, 
white face-paint and black beauty-substance show that the belles 
in ancient Sind attended to beauty and toilet culture. It is interest- 
ing to note thcit Chanhu-daro finds indicate the use of lip-sticks.^ 
Carbonate of lead, a face-paint, may also have been employed as an 
eye-ointment or hair- wash. Round metal rods in copper and bronze, 
with both ends rounded and polished, were probably used for ap- 
plying cosmetics. There were small toilet tables specially designed 
lor women. Other articles on the dressing-table included mirrors, 
made of bronze, oval in shape, and combs of different shapes made 
of ivory. Some combs were probably worn in the hair. Razors of 
various types, made of bronze, served for the toilet of the male. 

Various household articles have been found at Mohenjo-daro. 
These wexe xnade of pottery, stone, shell, faience, ivory, and metal. 
Copper and bronze appear to have replaced stone as the material 
for household implements. Pottery supplied for the kitchen nume- 
rous articles including flesh-rubbers, cake-moulds, dippers, beakers, 
bowls, goblets, dishes, basins, pans, saucers, ladles, heaters, jar 
stands, storage jars, etc. Goblets with pointed bases were the custo- 
mary drinking vessels, which were possibly to be used only once. 
Querns, palettes, and jar stands figure among articles of stone. Jar 
covers and ladles were also made of shell. There were needles, awls, 
axes, saws, sickles, knives, fish hooks, chisels, etc., made of bronze or 
copper, the first two also in ivory. Blocks of lead were probably 
used as net-sinkers. 

Chairs, bedsteads, and stools were used to decorate the draw- 
ing room. Possibly there were wooden beds like charpais, and stools 
were made of wicker work and mats of reeds. There were lamps 
of copper, shell, and pottery. A pottery candlestick found in the 
ruins indicates that candles, probably made of wax or tallow with 
wicks of cotton, played their part in illuminating the houses at 
Mohenjo-daro. 

Marbles, balls, and dice were used for games. Marbles were 
used as playthings both in Sumer and Egypt. That dicing was a 
common pastime just as it was in Vedic times is indicated by the 
large number of dice unearthed. Both cubical and tabular specir 
mens are found, the latter being the commoner. Unlike the oblong 
pieces in common use in India at present, they are usually cubic in 
shape like the European dice; but the arrangement of numbers 
differs from the European system (where the sum of points or\ any 
two opposite sides amounts to 7), 1 being opposite to 2, 3 to 4, and 

179 



THE VEDIC AGE 


5 to 6. The tabular dice, invariably made of ivory, have three sides 
marked with numbers 1, 2, 3 and the remaining side is decorated 
with longitudinal lines. Of the seven pieces found at Harappa, 
four bear markings like those of Mohenjo-daro; on two are marked 
1 opposite to 2, 3 to 4, and 5 to 6; and one has markings like the 
modern dice U-e., 1 opposite to 6, 2 to 5, and 3 to 4). Thus there 
were three different ways of marking dice in the Indus Valley, It 
is not certain whether the throwing of dice constituted a game in 
itself. Possibly dice were used in conjunction with board games, 
as two incomplete specimens of game boards of brick have been 
found. Some flat models of fish in ivory appear to have been used 
in some game. 

Some representations on amulet seals showing men shooting a 
wild goat and a large antelope with bows and arrows, and the re- 
mains of large antlers of deer and stags indicate that hunting was 
indulged in. Bull fighting was probably another pastime. There 
are indications to show that birds were kept as pets, and also for 
fighting. A certain amount of trapping was also carried on, and 
fishing was a regular occupation. Clay modelling appears to have 
been a favourite pastime with children, as is indicated by the large 
number of crude specimens of childish workmanship. 

Specimens of toys are various, interesting, and ingenious. Little 
clay carts appear to have been the favourite toy with children as 
would appear from the large number found. Pottery rams, with 
the fleece indicated by lines of red paint and mounted on two wheels 
with a hole through the neck for a draw-string were common play- 
things. The toy carts are particularly interesting as being among 
the earliest representatives of wheeled vehicles known to us. Usually 
toys were clay models of men, women, and animals, whistles, rattle.s, 
etc. There were also toy birds provided with stock legs, small 
animals climbing up a pole, and figures with movable arms. The 
bull with a nodding head worked by a stiff fibre, and a monkey- 
like animal with movable arms figure among the more ingenious 
toys. Complex toys like figures moving up and down a string whose 
progress could be accelerated by manipulating a cord were also 
manufactured. 

Bullock-carts were the chief means of conveyance. In addi- 
tion to models of carts found at Mohenjo-daro similar to the farm 
carts in common use at present in Sind and the Punjab, a copper 
specimen has been found at Harappa, which looks like an ekkd of 
the present day, with a canopy for protection from the sun and 
rain. It thus appears that the ancients also used the same type 
of the bullock cart as is found in modern Sind, which was probably 
drawn by two animals yoked to a pole. Bullock carts with a gabled 
roof over a wooden frame were also in use. 

Weights have been found in large numbers, and range from 

180 



THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION 

large specimens which had to be lilted with a rope to very small 
ones used by jewellers. Cubical weights seem to be by far the 
most common. Some small weights of dark grey slate resemble 
the barrel-shaped weights of Elam and Mesopotamia, and are more 
accurate and consistent than those of Susa and Iraq. The sequence 
of ratios is binary in the case of the smaller weights as at Susa, and 
decimal in the case of larger ones. There is no evidence of a sexa- 
gesimal system. The unit weight has the calculated value of .8750 
gms, the largest weight being 10970 gms. The most frequently 
discovered weight is one of 13.64 gms. which stands in the ratio 
of 16 to the standard unit of weight indicating the dominance of the 
number 16 in Indian culture.^ It appears that a strict control was 
exercised over the maintenance of the proper standard of weight. 
The poor used ordinary pebbles as weights. 

The few specimens of scales used with the weights appear to 
be of a very ordinary pattern^ consisting of a bronze bar with sus- 
pended copper pans. Heavy weights must have required much 
larger beams, which were most probably made of wood. There is 
no evidence that the steelyard was known. 

It is more difficult to form an idea of the measurement of length. 
A slip of shell, 6.62 inches long, which now preserves nine definite 
divisions each averaging 0 . 264 inches, has been taken by Dr. Mackay 
to be part of a linear measure. As groups of five appear to bear 
special marks, it seems that the decimal system was known, the 
measure indicating a decimal scale of 1.32 inches rising probably 
to a foot of 13.2 inches. Egypt was familiar with the decimal system 
of linear measure since the Fourth Dynasty, and a purely decimal 
system is found on Proto-Elamite tablets. Early Sumer used both 
the decimal and the sexagesimal systems. Probably the decimal 
system originated independently in the Indus Valley. Harappa 
ruins have yielded a fragmentary measure^ a bronze rod, 1 . 5 inches 
long, broken at both ends, bearing four complete divisions accurate- 
ly marked. It seems to have been based on the standard cubit of 
20.62 inches which was widely used in the ancient world. Thus, 
the Mohenjo-daro and Harappa measures indicate that both the foot 
and cubit systems were current simultaneously in the Indus Valley. 

Of the medicines used by the people we know but little. Pieces 
of a coal-black substance forming a dark-brown solution of water 
have been identified with SUdjit, which is known to be a specific for 
dyspepsia, diabetes, diseases of the liver, rheumatism^ etc. Several 
cuttle fish bones have been found stored in pottery. Cuttle bone 
is internally used as an appetiser, and externally in diseases of ear, 
eye, throat, and skin. The horns of the dejer and antelope (and possibly 
also of the rhinoceros) were valued for their medicinal qualities. 
Coral and leaves of the nim tree {azadirachta indica) were possibly 
used as medicines. All these specifics are still prescribed in dyur- 

181 



THE VEDIC AGE 


vedic medicine/ and thus the origin of the indigenous medicinal 
system of India may be traced to the Indus Valley Civilization. 

Abundant specimens of weapons, tools, and implements have 
been discovered. Weapons of war or the chase were axes, spears, 
daggers, bows, arrows, maces, slings, perhaps catapults, and swords, 
made generally of copper or bronze. Blade axes resemble the early 
specimens found at Susa. Spear heads are thin and broad, without 
the strengthening mid rib, and with a tang instead of a socket. The 
daggers and knives are generally long and leaf -shaped, some with a 
single edge and others with two. Arrow heads are thin, flat pieces 
of copper with long narrow barbs and no tang. Maces were made of 
alabaster, sandstone, limestone, or hard green-coloured stone, and the 
pear-shaped mace, resembling the specimens from Elam, Mesopota- 
mia, and Egypt, was most common. Swords are considerably 
thickened in the middle, but have blunt points suggesting that they 
were not used for thrusting. A kind of scale armour prepared from 
thin domed pieces of copper perforated with two minute holes was 
worn as for protection, and the shield was probably used for defen- 
sive purposes. 

Lance heads, chisels, celts, axes, adzes, and saws figure among 
the tools and implements. Axes are either long and narrow or 
short and broad; the latter being probably used for cutting wood. 
A single specimen erf a socketed bronze adze-axe is known, which 
can be compared to some finds in the Caucasus region. The cutting 
edge of the saw is semi-circular in shape and the toothed edge is 
wavy. Toothed saws were unknown among other peoples of anti- 
quity. 

The people of Mohenjo-daro maintained close contact with the 
outside world. For the import of various metals, precious stones, 
and other articles the Indus Valley had connections with Southern 
and Eastern India, Kashmir, Mysore, and the Nilgiri Hills, as also 
with the countries immediately to the West and Central Asia (see 
below, p. 188). Evidence as to relations with Sumer is overwhelm- 
ing, and trade contacts were maintained with Egypt and Crete. The 
representation on a seal of a mastless ship, with a central cabin 
and a steersman seated at the rudder, indicates that the people of 
the Indus Valley were acquainted with maritime vessels. The boat 
has a sharply up-turned prow and stern similar to the archaic re- 
presentations on Early Minoan seals, cylinders of Sumer, and the 
Pre-Dynastic pottery of Egypt. Dr. Mackay thinks that the Indus 
Va^lley was in touch with Sumer and Elam by the sea route also. 
Mohenjo-daro thus appears to have been a great inland port carry- 
ing on trade with Ur and Kish, probably also with Egypt. 

The remains unearthed at Mohenjo-daro demonstrate the exis- 
tence of different sections of people who may be grouped into four 
main classes, the learned class, warriors, traders and artisans, and 


182 



THE INDUS VALLEY CIVIUZATION 

finally manual labourers, corresponding roughly to the four Varnas 
of the Vedic period J The learned class probably comprised priests 
and physicians, astrologers, and sorcerers. According to archaeo- 
logists there is practically no vestige of the fighting classes; but the 
existence of “palaces” with ancient foundations, of substantial swords 
showing that some of the people were well armed, of watchmen’s 
quarters at Mohenjo-daro, and of ancient fort walls at other sites 
in Sind, points to a class similar to the Kshatriyas, whose duty was 
to protect the people. A commercial class and various artisans 
such as the mason, engraver, shell-worker, weaver, gold-smith, etc., 
formed the third class- Domestic servants and manual labourers 
like leather-workers basket-makers, peasants, fishermen, etc., be- 
longed to the last class. 

3. ARTS, CRAFTS, AND INDUSTRIES 

There is very little sign of art for art’s sake m the Indus Valley. 
There is no trace of ornamentation in houses and public buildings. 
Tools, weapons, vessels, etc., are quite plain and practical, but lack 
subtle grace. Even the painted pottery has commonplace designs. 
Specimens of art are to be sought only in figurines, seals, amulets, 
and other small objects. All figurines are well baked, and some 
of them are painted in red. The majority of human figures are 
female, and they are nude except for a narrow girdle round the loins. 
Animal figures are found in large numbers in pottery; the squirrel 
and monkeys are made in faience, and a turtle in shell. The short- 
horned bull is realistically portrayed as on the seals. The mastiff 
cut from steatite is quite life-like and resembles the English mastiff 
of today. The small carvings, presumably used as amulets, are most 
charming: notably little squirrels in faience (PI. V. 1) not a couple 
of inches high, sitting up with tails erect and munching something 
from beneath their fore-paws; little monkeys (PI. V. 2) with a 
worried expression, almost identical to what is so noticeable on the 
faces of their descendants today; and perhaps most delightful of all, 
a bead carved with three monkeys (PI- V. 3) sitting round in a 
circle, clasping one another’s waists with their arms. The exqui- 
site bronze figure of an aboriginal dancing girl (PI. V. 4-6) with her 
hand on the hip, in an almost impudent posture, is a noteworthy 
object. Her hands and legs are disproportionately . long and she 
wears bracelets right up to the shoulder. The legs are put slightly 
forward with the feet beating time to the music. “Though more 
impressionistic in style than the stone sculptures, this figure, which * 
is cast in one piece, astonishes one by the ease and naturalness of its 
posture.”® 

Of the seal engravings the best are those of such animals as 
the humped bull, the buffalo, and the bison, which the artist had an 
opportunity of studying at first hand. The humped bull is frankly 

183 



THE VEDIC AGE 


realistic and spirited, and in* its portrayal the artist has tempered 
realism with breadth of treatment and restraint. The buffalo is 
very effectively shown with a slightly raised head, displaying its 
great horns in the act of bellowing. The bison with powerful 
arched shoulders and relatively small hind quarters is quite lifelike. 
The blue faience tablet, depicting a deity seated cross-legged on a 
throne with a kneeling devotee on either side and a snake behind; 
‘'serves well to illustrate how instructive and illuminating a back- 
ground this new-found prehistoric art of India is likely to supply 
to the later art of historic India."' The best of the engraved seals 
are master-pieces of the engraver's art, as vivid in their drawing as 
they are skilful in execution, which could only have been turned 
out by people possessed of marked artistic ability and great techni- 
cal skill. 

Statuary is rare, only a few specimens being found. Statues 
were cut from comparatively soft stones, grey and yellow limestone, 
alabaster, and steatite. A steatite male head looks like an attempt 
at portraiture (PI. VI. 3). The figure is draped in a shawl, decorat- 
ed with trefoil patterns, which is worn over the left shoulder and 
under the right arm. The eyes are long, and half closed in a yoga 
attitude. The nose is well formed and of medium size; the mouth 
is of average size with close-cut moustache and a short beard and 
whiskers; the ears resemble double shells with a hole in the middle. 
The hair is parted in the middle, and a plain woven fillet is passed 
round the head. An armlet is worn on the right haiad and holes 
round the neck suggest a necklace. The noticeable features in all 
statues are the prominent cheek-bones, the thick, short, sturdy neck, 
and narrow oblique eyes, in contrast to the Sumerian statues, which 
have round and full eyes, and full, fleshy lips. The heads are bra- 
chycephalic, dolichocephalic and mesaticranial. 

Two statuettes from Harappa have revolutionized the current 
ideas about early Indian art (PI. VI. 1, 2). In both, there are socket 
holes in the neck and shoulders for the attachment of head and 
arms, made in separate pieces in the red-stone torso, the frontal 
pose is adopted, the shoulders are well backed, and the abdomen 
slightly prominent. In the opinion of eminent art critics, for pure 
simplicity and feeling .nothing to compare with this masterpiece 
was produced until the great age of Hellas. The other statuette 
represents a dancer standing on the right leg with the left leg raised 
in front, the body above the waist and both arms bent round to the 
left. The pose is full of movement. The neck is abnormally 
thick; possibly it may represent 6iva Nataraja, or the head may 
have been that of an animal. The anatomical faithfulness in these 
statuettes is striking. Specimens of art in . lapidary work are 
found in the remarkably well-made stone beads, specially those 
of clear and clouded agate, red translucent carnelian, etc. An in- 

184 



THE INDUS VALLEY CIVIUZATION 

• 

stance of the considerable skill exhibited in the manufacture of 
stone beads is one that was made of •five segments of chalcedony 
and deep red camelian, which were cemented together to imitate 
a bead cut out of a piece of regularly veined stone. 

From the discovery of many spindles and spindle whorls in the 
houses in the Indus Valley it is evident that spinning of cotton and 
wool was very common. That both the rich and poor practised 
spinning is indicated by the whorls being made of the expensive 
faience as also of the cheap pottery and shell. No textiles of any 
description have been preserved in the Indus Valley owing to the 
nature of the soil. A close and exhaustive examination, in the 
Technological Laboratory, of the pieces of cotton which were found 
attached to a silver vase, shows the specimen to be a variety of the 
coarser Indian cotton, cultivated in upper India today, and not of 
the wild species. Some more specimens of woven material adhering 
to various copper objects have also been found to be mostly cotton, 
but some were bast fibres. There is no indication from the ruins 
as to the existence of flax, which is largely grown in India at present 
and was known in ancient Elam and Egypt. The purple dye on a 
piece of cotton has been taken to have been produced from the 
madder plant. Dyers’ vats found on the site indicate that dyeing 
was practised. 

The Indus Valley pottery consists chiefly of very fine wheel- 
made wares, plain potter^" being more common than the painted 
ware or ware with designs. In marked contrast to the delicate 
thinness of much of the Iranian and Mesopotamian wares, the Indus 
Valley pottery is heavy and utilitarian. 

The clay used was the alluvium from the Indus, tempered with 
sand generally containing fine particles of mica or lime. Most of 
the specimens are wheel-turned, very few being hand-made. Pot- 
tery, brick, and terracotta wei’e fired in kilns which were circular 
in shape with arrangements for heating underneath a floor provided 
with flues. 

The plain ware is usually of red clay, with or without a fine 
red or grey ‘‘slip.” It includes knobbed ware which is a curious 
type ornamented with rows of knobs. Imported Indian vases of 
this type have been found at Tell Asmar. Tlie l;>Iack-painted ware 
has a fine coating of red slip on which geometric and animal designs 
are executed in glossy black paint. Polychrome pottery is rare and 
mainly comprised of small vases decorated with geometric patterns 
in red, black, and green, rarely white and yellow. 

Incised ware also is rare and the incised decoration was con-, 
fined to the bases of the pans, always inside, and to the dishes of 
offering stands. Egg-shell pottery, locally known as Kagzi, is of 
exquisitely delicate workmanship and is absent in Susa and Baby- 
lon. Perforated pottery has a large hole at the bottom and small 

185 



THE VEDIC AGE 


holes all over the wall, and was probably used for straining liquor. 

Pottery for household pui*poses is found in as many shapes and 
sizes as could be conceived for daily practical use. Straight and 
angular shapes are the exception, and graceful curves the rule, 
with the Indus Valley pottery. Miniature vessels, mostly less than 
half an inch in height, are particularly so marvellously executed 
as to evoke the admiration of visitors. 

Shanhu-daro appears to have been a manufacturing centre of 
toys, judging from the large number unearthed there. Pottery 
rattles, gaily decorated, and model pottery carts in various shapes 
with humped oxen are exceedingly common. Pottery rattles are so 
substantially made that hardly a broken specimen is found. There 
is a wide variety in the types of toy cart. 

Seals discovered in the various strata constitute one of the 
most interesting features of the finds. Hitherto over 2,000 seals have 
been recovered from the various sites. Steatite, faience, ivory, and 
pottery are the materials used for manufacturing seals. 

Stamped seals were invariably made of steatite, which came 
from Aravalli. Steatite was cut into shape with a saw, after which 
the boss was cut. The boss was then rounded off after the groove 
by a knife and finished off with an abrasive. The designs appear 
to have been cut by a burin. The body was first carved before out- 
lining other parts. Inscriptions were added later. Almost all 
seals were coated with a smooth glossy glaze. Steatite was hardened 
by heating. 

Seals are of various sizes and shapes, the most popular shape 
being square or oblong, with a pierced hump at the back for sus- 
pension, and a flat face decorated with exquisite designs, generally 
of animals, and with inscriptions in a pictographic script. The in- 
scriptions on the seals, however, do not seem to have any connection 
with the figures on them, as the same animal figure is found in com- 
pany with completely different inscriptions. The Svastika design, 
which is found in Crete, Cappadocia, Troy, Susa, Musyiin, etc., but 
not in Babylonia or Egypt, appears on particular types of seals and 
indicates their religious use or significance. Though cylinder seals 
were universally used in Sumer, only three specimens have so far 
been found in the Indus Valley, having purely Indian devices. 

A number of small -steatite tablets recovered from the lowest 
levels at Harappa, having almost identical legends, are considered 
as receipts by Dr. Hunter.® 

There are square or rectangular copper tablets, with an animal 
or human figure on one side and an inscription on the other, or an 
inscription on both sides. The figures and signs are carefully cut 
with a burin. These copper tablets appear to have been amulets.'*® 
Unlike inscriptions on seals which vary in each case, inscriptions on 





THE INDUSj, VALLEY CIVILIZATION 

copper tablets seem to be associated with the animals portrayed 
on them. • 

It has generally been assumed that the designs on the Indus 
Valley seals, like those on the cylinder seals of Babylonia, were of 
a religious character and showed that the people were animal- wor- 
shippers. The commonest animal appears to be the so-called uni- 
corn or antelope, resembling a bull^ but without a hump, and a 
single protruding horn shown in profile. In front of the unicorn 
is placed a curious object, the lower portion of which is a bowl-like 
receptacle, with an upper part resembling a cage. Probably both 
the animal and the object have a ceremonial significance connected 
with the principal deity of Mohenjo-daro. The other animals are 
the short-horned bull, the Brahmani bull, the elephant, the tiger, 
the rhinoceros, the gharial and the antelope. .A flat-bottomed low 
manger or trough appears on some seals, and it is seen only before 
wild animals. The short-horned bull, the buffalo, and the rhino- 
ceros are very carefully and realistically portrayed. The tiger 
with an open mouth and protruding tongue sometimes gazes at a 
tree on whose branches a man is perched. Alongside there appear 
mythological creatures and composite animals, such as human figures 
with bull’s ears, horns, hoof, and tail; or a horned tiger; or a unis- 
like animal with additional heads of antelope and short-horned bull; 
or a most fantastic abortion, a curious human-faced animal partak- 
ing of the characteristics of a goat, a bull, a tiger, and an elephant. 
One circular seal shows six animal heads radiating from a boss. 

The uses to which seals were put at Mohenjo-daro are uncertain 
and have been the subject-matter of various conjectures. The 
large variations in the inscriptions speak against their use as money. 
Reversed writing on 99 per cent of these objects becomes inexpli' 
cable if they are taken as amulets, and the projecting boss at the 
back disproves their use for this purpos e. Their use in other coun- 
tries indicates that they were stamped on some plastic material 
like clay in order to authenticate property or seal the mouths of 
jars or doors. Owing to their fragile nature, actual clay impressions 
have been found of only a few specimens. Terra-cotta sealings 
were probably used for some specific purpose. Their large number 
and the fact that they have been found in the houses of the rich 
and poor alike indicate that the inhabitants attached great import- 
ance to them, and probably every citizen carried one on his person. 
The attempts in some seals to replace the legend after cutting it 
indicate that after the death of the original owner of the seal, it was 
taken by another by making appropriate changes in the inscription.'^ 
Among semi-precious stones used for ornament, amazon and 
amethyst came from the south, and. lapis lazuli, turquoise, and 
jadeite from the west. Rajputana and Kathiawar supplied plasma, 
agate, jasper, and blood-stone. All these were used for manufactur- 


187 



THE VEDiq AGE 

ing beads, regard being paid to their colour-scheme, size, and mark 
ings. Great technical skill is dfeplayed in the manufacture of beads. 
The holes in the carnelian beads are well polished and testify to 
th^ great skill in boring such hard stones. Some unfinished beads 
of agate show that they were shaped and smoothed before being 
bored, for the translucency of the polished stone helped the lapidary 
in drilling straight. The accuracy of chert weights shows that the 
people were proficient in the working of flint, agate, gneiss, and 
other hard stones. 

The gold used in the Indus Valley appears to have come from 
the gold mines at Kolar and in the Anantapur district. Different 
kinds of beads of gold were variously made by soldering cup-like 
pieces together or by casting or by beating out and soldering together. 
Bangles were made of thin sheets of gold with the metal slightly 
overlapping on the inside. Afghanistan. Armenia, and Persia range 
among the probable sources of silver. Large globular silver beads 
were cast or beaten out. Ear-rings were made of silver wire roughly 
bent round. Silver bracelets were made on core like gold bracelets. 
Copper and bronze are found side by side to the lowest levels at 
Mohenjo-daro. Copper may have come from Rajputana, Balu- 
chistan or Madras. The use of bronze indicates a great advance 
over contemporary civilizations in metal working. Though thus 
superior to the Sumerians in possessing the secret of smelling bronze, 
Indian metal-workers could not rival the beauty and delicacy of 
the gold and cooner objects from Ur. Copper vessels w^ere raised 
from sheet metal: those of bronze were cast by the che perdue 
process. Eyes of needles and awls were formed either by drilling 
holes close together and then breaking the intervening material, 
or by bending the head over as in some pre-Sargonic needles at 
Kish. Copner and bronze finger-rings were generally made of coiled 
wire. Lead was extensively mined in ancient India, and Ajmei 
may have supplied lead to the Indus Valle3^ It is significant that 
the people of the Indus Valley were not conversant with the me- 
tallurgy of iron. 

Shell is extensively used especially in the making of ornaments 
and pieces of inlav. Most of the shell might have come from places 
along the coast of India and the Persian Gulf. Mussel shell was also 
fairly common and was probably used as a spoon. Olhm was worn 
as an ornament and had some magic value attached to it. Cockle 
shells were probably used, as in early Sumer, to hold cosmetics. 
Mother of pearl is conspicuous by its absence, while it was used by 
the Sumerians for inlay. Shell v/as apparently available in large 
auantities. The manufacturers experienced great difficulties in cut- 
ting shell. Cohimdla was .first holloweyl out hv means of a saw 
and a hammer, and the tubular niece remaining was sawn into 
bracelets. Beads ot different shapes and piece.s for inlay work 

188 



THE INDUS VALg:.EY CIVILIZATION 


were made out of the columella, and the whole of the shell was 
utilized. The comparative paucity of fvory objects may possibly 
be due to the sanctity attached to elephants. The wild elephant, 
which is totally extinct in North-Western India at present, probably 
roamed in Sind and the Punjab in the third millennium B.C. At 
that period the climate of the Indus valley, if we may judge by the 
flora and fauna, resembled that of the Ganges delta today. Though no 
true glass has yet been unearthed, the art of glazing appears to have 
been practised. Vitrified paste and faience were used for glazed 
work. Faience was extensively manufactured in the Indus Valley 
and is found at all levels. Ordinary articles of faience are composed 
of a white or a greyish paste, granular in appearance, coated with a 
glaze, which has now faded to a light blue or green. Great skill 
in glazing is exhibited in a pottery bead covered by two coloured 
glazes, brown and white, which was first taken to have been made 
of glass. 


4 . J^GIQN 

No buildings have so far been discovered in the Indus Valley 
which may be definitely regarded as temples, and even those doubt- 
fully classed as such have yielded no religious relics. Tliere are no 
shrines, altars, or any definite cult objects. It is indeed curious that 
the Indus finds do not include any positive religious material, for 
religion has alw’ays played a dominant part in ancient cultures, 
and especially in India, where it was the prime factor moulding 
the lives of people for ages. All that we have to rely on for re- 
constructing the religion of the people is the testimony of the seals, 
sealings, figurines, stone images, etc. In spite of the meagreness 
of the material the light it throws on ancient religion is invaluable. 
Here we can only refer to a few leading ideas. 

The first in point of importance is the cult of the Mother God- 
dess. A number of figurines of terra-cotta, faience, efc., portray a 
standing and semi-nude female figure, wearing a girdle or band 
round her loins, with elaborate head-dress and collar, occasionally 
with ornamental cheek cones and necklace; sometimes the ear- 
ornaments are like caps suspended on either side of the head. Some 
of the figures are smoke-stained, and it is possible that oil, or per- 
haps incense, was burnt before them in order that the goddess might 
hearken favourably to a petition. Figurines similar to those in 
the Indus Valley have been discovered in many countries in Western 
Asia between Persia and the .ffigean, and also round wayside trees 
and village shrines in South India. These figures are rightly taken 
to represent the Mother or Nature Goddess. There is no reason 
to believe that the cult of the Mother Goddess originated in Anatolia 
or any other particular country because the concepts of the mother- 
hood of God and of the divinity of Nature quite common among 

189 



THE VEDIC AGE 


the primitive peoples of the world, and are wide-spread and deep- 
rooted in India The Mother Goddess is represented in every 
village as the tutelary deity {grama devatd) and is known under 
various names, such as Mata, Amba, Amma, Kali, Karali, etc.^ some- 
times to be dreaded, sometimes warding off evil spirits, imparting 
fertility, etc. It may be mentioned that the Rigveda refers to 
Prithvi and Aditi which are akin to the Mother Goddess. 

An interesting sealing from Harappa shows a nude female 
figure, turned upside down, with, out-spread legs and a plant issuing 
from the womb. The reverse side has a man with a sickle-shaped 
knife in hand and a woman seated on the ground with hands raised 
in supplication. Obviously this depicts a human sacrifice to the 
Earth Goddess, portrayed on the obverse with two genii. A similar 
figure of the Gupta Age has been discovered in the United Provinces 
with a lotus issuing out of the neck of the goddess. Perhaps the 
sealing represents a river gushing cut of the goddess’s wombJ" 
The representation of a figure standing in the bifurcated branch of a 
pipal tree also appears to depict the Mother Goddess. To this god- 
dess the worshipper brings a goat, probably for sacrifice, and a 
number of people standing in the lower register seem to be taking 
part in the sacrifice. The Pipal tree is still held to be sacred in 
India, but not associated with the cult of the Mother Goddess. The 
goat sacrifice has survived in the worship of Sakti, another form of 
the Mother Goddess, in which the sacrifice of animals is the most 
characteristic feature. Tt is still uncertain whether the female deity 
represented by potter}^ figurines was regarded as a virgin goddess or 
as the consort of the male god on the seal amulets. 

Among the male gods the most remarkable is a three-faced deitv 
wearing a horned head-dress, seated cross-legged on a throne, with 
perils erectus, and surrounded by elephant, tiger, buffalo, and rhino- 
ceros, with deer appearing under the seat. It wears a number of 
bangles and has a pectoral round the neck, and an inscription of 
seven letters appears at the top (PI. VII. 4). This representation 
has at least three conceDt.s which are usually associated with !§ivn 
viz., that he is (i) trimukha (three-faced), fii) pa.^upati (lord of 
animals), and (iii) or Mahay oal. The first two aspects 

are apnarent from the seal itself. The deity is sitting cross-legged 
in a vadmdsana posture v/ith eyes turned towards the tip of the 
nose which evidences the Yogisvara asnect of the deity. It has been 
suggested bv some scholar*^'^^ that this 6iva-cult was borrowed hy 
the Indo-Arvans from the Indus culture but as there is a reference 
to Siva in the Riqt^edn itself, Siva may not be a later intruder in 
the Hindu pantheon. 

Two more seals of Siva have been found in the course of further 
excavations (PI. VII. 5. 6). The deity is always nude save for a 
cincture round the waist, and has a horned head-dress.‘ In one seal" 

m 



THE INDUS V/VLLEY CIVILIZATION 

the deity is three-faced and seated on a low dais, while the second 
has one face in profile; both have a sprig of flowers or leaves rising 
from the head between the horns. This sprig suggests that the 
deity so ornamented is a vegetation or fertility god — another link 
with Siva^ who personifies the reproductive powers of nature. A 
horned archer dressed in a costume of leaves (PI. VII. 7) displays 
the divine hunter aspect of Siva. 

It thus appears that Siva was one of the principal deities of the 
people along with the Mother Goddess. His worship was, however, 
not merely iconic, but also phallic, as would appear from the pre- 
sence of a large number of conical and cylindrical stones. 
These conical and cylindrical stones probably symbolize fertility, 
and are connected with the cult of Siva as Lingas. Many scholars 
find a contemptuous reference in the Rigveda tp phallus worship 
and regard it as a veiled allusion to the religious customs of the 
pre-Aryan people of the Indus Valley, but it has been suggested by 
others that the passage in question simply alludes to sensuous or 
lustful persons.''^ 

Small ring stones suggest that the worship of the Yoni, the 
female symbol of generation, was also prevalent though not to such 
an extent as Liiiga worship. It is, however, possible to take the 
group of ring stones as pedestals or bases of pillars. Hence until 
the linga and one of the ring stones are found in close association, 
the question of the prevalence of phallic worship cannot be definitely 
settled. The Vedic religion, it may be observed, was originally 
aniconic, the worship of icons arising at a later stage. 

That animal worship or zoolatry formed part of the religious 
beliefs of the people is indicated by the representations of animals 
on seals and sealings, or in terra-cotta, faience, and stone figurines. 
The animals fall into three groups: (i) mythical animals, e.g. a 
semi-human, semi-bovine creature, attacking a horned tiger re- 
sembling Eabani or Enkidu in Sumerian mythology; or, complex 
animals, with the heads of different animals attached to a central 
boss, which may possibly be an attempt to bring together the repre- 
sentations of various deities; (ii) ambiguous animals, which are not 
completely mythical, like the strange unicorn, accompanied with 
manger or incense-burner; or animals figuring as officiant genii. 
The frequency with which the unicorn appears has been taken to 
indicate that it was the tutelary deity of the city. Lastly there are 
(iii) actual animals, including the rhinoceros, the bison, the tiger, 
the elephant, the buffalo, the humped bull or zebra^ the short-horned 
bull, etc. The feeding troughs which appear before some of these 
have been taken as symbolizing food offerings to beasts which could 
not be domesticated, indicating the animals as objects of worship. 
Some of these animals were regarded as the vdhana or vehicles of 
the gods. The bull, for instance, is closely associated with Siva. 

191 



THE VED^p AGE 


It may be suggested that the limestone statues of animals resting on 
rectangular plinths represent gods in their animal form. Possibly 
the unicorn has some connection with the boar incarnation of Vishnu, 
which is said to be eka-sringa (one-Horned). 

Apart from their use as pictographic signs, no birds appear on 
seals or other amulets. It seems, however, that the dove was looked 
upon as sacred, as some of the pottery models on little pedestals 
exactly resemble those found at verjr early sites in Mesopotamia, 
where the dove was regarded as sacred to the Mother Goddess. 

The worship of tree, fire, and water also seems to have been in 
vogue. The existence of tree worship is evidenced by the represen- 
tations on several seals and sealings. The most interesting of these 
depicts the trisula-horned deity standing nude, with long hair, be- 
tween two branches of a trw with the half-kneeling figure of a wor- 
shipper with long hair, armlets, and horns, behind whom is a com- 
posite animal; in the lower register appear seven standing figures, 
with dresses down to the knees, in procession (PL No. VII. 8). The 
leaves of the tree appear like those of the pipal. Some sealings 
from Harappa show trees enclosed by a wall or a railing. It cannot 
at present be stated definitely whether tree worship pertained to 
trees in their natural state or to their indwelling spirits. 

Rectangular aisles, separated from each other by long walls, 
suggest the Vedic sacrificial altar of a rectangular shape {agnisdld 
paved with bricks), in which offerings were made to Fire and other 
gods. ® 

Though no direct evidence has been found to river worship, the 
important part played by water in the daily life of the Indus people, 
as indicated by the elaborate arrangements for bathing and the 
Great Bath, seems to show that ceremonial ablutions formed a 
feature of their religion. The Great Bath has been suggested as the 
temple of the River-God. The crocodile probably represented 
the river Indus. The cult of the gharial survives in Sind even 
today. 

The representations, on some seals, of Svastika and the wheel, 
which are the symbols of the sun, suggest that the sun was not re- 
presented anthropcmorphically but symbolically. Svastika and the 
cross appear to be religious or magical symbols as in Babylonia and 
Elam. 

From a faience tablet showing a seated deity with a worshipper 
on either side and a hooded cobra over the head, it appears that some 
form of Ndga worship was practised. 

5. FUNERARY CUSTOMS 

The evidence with regard to the customs about the disposal 
of the dead in the ancient Indus Valley is yet far too meagre for 
any definite conclusions, and though Harappa records more ample 

192 



THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION 

material, it relates to a period subsequent to the occupation of 
Mohenjo-daro. 

Three forms of burial have been found at Mohenjo-daro^ vi^., 
complete burials, fractional burials, and post-cremation burials. 
Complete burial means the burial of the whole body, ceremonially 
performed in various forms, along with the grave furniture, offerings, 
etc. About 30 skeletons, evidencing complete burials, have been 
found in different groups. Some of these appear to have been 
victims of accidental death. All these burials appear^ on stratigra- 
phical evidence, to relate to the declining years of Mohenjo-daro. 

. Fractional burial represents a collection “of some bones after 
the exposure of the body to wild beasts and birds. Five such burials 
have been found, the best specimen beii^ an urn, containing a skull 
and some fragmentary bones, along with a number of earthenware 
vessels, and a variety of small objects including balls, beads, shell 
spoon, bits of ivory, and miniature vessels (PI. Vill. 1). Human 
bones are not found in all specimens, probably because after ex- 
posure bones were ground to dust before interment. 

Post-cremation burials have been inferred from large wide- 
mouthed urns containing a number of smaller vessels, bones of 
animals, and of birds or fish, and a variety of small objects, such as 
beads, bangles, figurines, etc., sometimes mixed with charcoal ashes. 
These are generally found underneath a floor or a street. Human 
bones are seldom found, these generally being the bones of lambs, 
goats, etc., as bones are hardly necessary for post-cremation burials. 
The uniform character of the urns, quite distinct from the domestic 
varieties, as also the offerings in the form* of objects of special in- 
terest to the departed, and the burial of these urns within dwelling 
houses or in close proximity, leave no doubt as to their being burial 
urns. These have been discovered at six places in Mohenjo-daro, 
distributed among strata of all periods. 

6. THE INDUS SCRIPT 

The Indus script has been characterized by most scholars as 
pictographic, but save for a small number of signs representing 
birds, fish, etc., and varieties of the human form, the rest bear more 
or less a conventional character. Originally pictographic, the signs, 
as we know them, have become standardized, but not so conventio- 
nalized by usage as to have become mere stereotyped sumrnaries 
like the cuneiform characters of Mesopotamia. During all the cen- 
turies of Mohenjo-daro’s occupation, the script presents no develop- 
ment in the form of the letters. The script is found in one stage 
only, so that we cannot trace its genesis from the pictographic to the 
ideographic or phonetic, or its later development to any of the 
scripts of India. 

The most remarkable features of the Indus script are its clarity 

193 



THE VEDIC AGE 


and straight rectilinear character, and the extent and variety of its 
signs. Admirable ingenuity is displayed in modifying the signs by 
the addition of strokes or accents, and in combining one sign with 
another in the form of conjuncts. The large number of signs pre- 
eludes the possibility of the script being alphabetic. It was mainly 
phonetic, most of the signs apparently standing for open or closed 
syllables, and the remainder functioning as determinatives or ideo- 
grams. Nearly 400 distinct signs have been listed from the script 
so far. 

From the recurrence of certain characters, the facing of the 
animals and a few other indications, it has rightly been inferred that 
the direction oi writing is from the right to the left, though in a 
very few inscriptions the direction is from left to right. In legends 
covering two or more lines the direction is boustrophedon. 

There are resemblances between some characters in the Indus 
script and those in the Sumerian, proto-Elamite, Hittite, Egyptian, 
Cretan, Cypriote, and Chinese scripts. Similarities have also been 
traced with the script of the Easter Islands, and the Tantric picto* 
graphic alphabets. All these scripts are possibly interrelated, but 
only up to a certain point. Some scholars even claim the Brahmi 
to have been derived from the Indus script. 

It is not possible, in the present stage of our knowledge, to 
determine the language of the script. Some scholars take it to be 
Sanskrit and others as Dravidian. In their attempts to decipher 
the script several scholars have taken for granted the identity of 
the Indus language with one or the other of the known languages 
or their prototypes.^ '' In connection with the resemblances of the 
Indus signs with other scripts, Rao Bahadur Dikshit observes that 
the resemblance with Sumerian and proto-Elamite signs presages 
a close connection, at least in the formative stages; similarities with 
the Egyptian and Chinese pictographs are superficial, and the Indus 
script developed independently on Indian soil.^® With regard to 
interpreting the script in terms of the Dravidian equivalents, it may 
be stated that we have nothing to rely on as to the original or the 
proto-Dra vidian language; the language could not have been static 
during these 5,000 years. Much more extensive research in 
Southern India, moreover, will be necessary before definite links 
can be forged between the later stages of the Indus Valley civiliza- 
tion and the dawn of civilization in Southern India. 

The material at our disposal is sufficiently large, but despite 
earnest attempts by scholars nt> real light can be thrown on the sub- 
ject which may find general acceptance. In the absence of a real 
solution that would stand the test of any and every investigator, all 
attempts to decipher the script will have merely an academic in- 
terest. The Indus Valley had trade relations with Sumer and Elam, 
and Indus seals have been found at the latter sites. It is likely that 


194 



THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION 

some bilingual inscription, turned up by the spade of the archaeo- 
logist in Iraq, will give us the right clue to the decipherment of the 
Indus script. 

7. THE ANTIQUITY OF THE CULTURE 

Despite its definite individual characteristics, the Indus Valley 
civilization is not isolated and unique, but has sister civilizations 
elsewhere, with several outstanding common features, which indi- 
cate its contemporaneity with the western city cultures in Mesopo- 
tamia. At none of the sites in the Indus Valley has iron been found, 
which gives us the lower limit of the age oi the civilization, as 
iron was known everywhere in the Middle East in the later half 
of the second millennium B.C- The civilization that we find in the 
Indus Valley is still of the chalcolithic age displaying remarkable 
similarity with the Second Pre-Diluvian Culture of Elam and Meso- 
potamia, and the proto-historic period of Sumer (c. 2750 B.C.). 

Excavation has brought to light seven different layers of build- 
ings at Mohenjo-daro, which have been assigned to three periods, 
viz. Early, Iptermediate, and Late. Earlier layers lie submerged 
under subsoil water. The phase of the Indus Valley civilization found 
at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa is known as the “Harappa Culture.'’ 
Explorations in Sind have brought to light three different “cultures,'’ 
viz., those of Amri, Jhukar, and Jhangar, the first of which preceded 
and the last two followed the Harappa culture. Chanhu-daro dis- 
played races of Jhukar and Jhangar cultures in the upper levels. 

On the analogies of Troy and Rome, normally a period of one 
thousand years should be assigned for the occupation of the seven 
cities of Mohenjo-daro; but as the decay at Mohenjo-daro was much 
quicker on account of the imminent danger of floods (of which v/e 
get evidence), and as the re-occupation of the cities was much more 
rapid as seen from the uniformity of antiquities in all layers, a 
period of only 500 years has been assigned for the whole strata. As, 
however, the civilization is already in a developed stage, roughly 
a period of 1000 years has been allotted for the antecedent evolution. 

The latest settlement of Mohenjo-daro has been attributed to 
2750 B.C., so that the occupation of the seven cities ranges between 
3250-2750 B.C. This rough dating, however, has been brought 
down by a few centuries by the find of various Indus Valley objects 
in datable strata in Sumer and Mesopotamia. 

An Indus seal confined to the Late Period at Mohenjo-daro was 
found at Eshnunna in layers pertaining to 2600-2500 B.C., so that 
the early period at Mohenjo-daro reaches back to about 2800 B.C. 
A similar seal, however, has been found at Ur in a tomb which is 
not older than 2150 Dr. Frankfort’s discovery of cylinder 

seals of Indian origin at Tell Asmar and of a green steatite vase 
depicting a Brahmani bull at Tell Agrab carry back the date of the 


195 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Indus Valley civilization to about 2800 B.C. The seals of the 
Indus Valley type found in Mesopotamia by Dr. Gadd indicate 
2800 B.C. as the upper limit of the Harappa culture. Dr. Fabri 
places the main culture period at Mohenjo-daro between 2800- 
2500 B.C. on the evidence of a pottery jar with a Sumero-Babyio- 
nian inscription found at Mohenjo-daro.^o A comparison of the 
plain and painted ware in the Indus Valley with similar specimens 
at Sumer, Elam, and Egypt shows the Indus Valley civilization to 
have flourished about 2500 B.C. Ceramic evidence shows that the 
earliest stage of the Indus Valley civilization is represented at Amri, 
which may go back to 3000 B.C., followed by the Harappa, Jhukar, 
and Jhangar cultures. 

On a careful considei'ation of all available material for the 
age of the Indus civilization, some of which has been indicated 
above, it appears that the main culture period at Mohenjo-daro 
or the “Harappa culture’' ranged between 2800-2500 B.C. Though 
it must have had a long history of antecedent development before 
it reached the stage we meet, no idea of that period can be had, as 
the lowermost strata cannot be reached at Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, 
Jhukar, or Chanhu-daro, because of subsoil water. The civilization 
for all we know may well reach beyond 3500 B.C. The uppermost 
layers of Chanhu-daro, as suggested by Dr. Mackay, can be assigned 
to 2300-2200 B.C., whereas the lower strata go back to 2600-2500 
B.C. The culture period of the Indus Valley civilization, as re- 
vealed by its finds, thus seems to have lasted roughly from c. 2800 
to 2200 B . C. The cultures at different sites in the Indus Valley arc 
to be placed between these two extreme dates. 

8. AUTHORS OF THE INDUS CIVILIZATION 

The only definite material available with regard to the author- 
ship of the Indus Valley civilization is the human skeletons and skulls 
found among the ruins. As mentioned above, these show that the 
population of Mohenjo-daro was heterogeneous and comprised at 
least four different racial types, viz. Proto-Australoid, Mediterra- 
nean, Alpinoid, and Mongoloid. The Mohenjo-daro population is, 
however, generally believed to have mainly consisted of the Medi- 
terranean type, which has been described before (ante, p. 145 ff.). 
The craniological evidence speaks not only of the diverse racial 
elements, but also of free racial mixture. 

No accuracy or scientific precision in this respect can be ex- 
pected in sculptured pieces, as the artists were not anthropologists. 
Whatever meagre evidence is supplied by the statuary confirms 
the craniological evidence as to the existence of different races. 

The anthropological and statuary evidence does not aid us in 
pointing at the authors of the civilization. There has been quite an 
amount of speculation among scholars and archaeologists with re- 

196 



THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION 


gard to the ascription of the authorship of the Indus civilization to 
any particular race. Words like Aryan and Dra vidian winch pri- 
marily denote linguistic groups have been indiscriminately used in 
an ethnic sense in this connection. Thus the authorship has befen 
ascribed to Dravidians, Brahuis, Sumerians, Panis, Asuras, Vratyas, 
Vahikas, Dasas, Nagas, Aryans, etc.^^ 

The majority view prefers to hold the authors of the Indus 
civilization as speakers of “Dravidian"’ (ante, p. 158). So far, how- 
ever, as the funeral customs are concerned it is impossible to as- 
cribe the Indus Valley culture to the “Dravidians,” among whom 
burial was the prevalent form of interring the dead. Further, 
excavation in the south has hitherto revealed no traces of the Indus 
Valley civilization. 

The Brahuis, though speaking a Dravidiah language, are of 
Turko- Iranian origin^ and are ethnically quite distinct from the 
various peoples speaking Dravidian languages in Central and South- 
ern India. There is no definite evidence to support the Brahui 
authorship of the Indus culture. 

We know nothing definite as to the racial features of the 
Sumerians. They were, no doubt, in close contact with the Indus 
Valley in ancient days, and probably formed part of the population 
at Mohenjo-daro; but there is nothing to credit them with the author- 
ship of the Indus culture. 

As regards the Panis, Vratyas, Vahikas, Asuras, Dasas, and Nagas, 
we have no material to identify them with any of the known races. 

(Sir John Marshall has compared the Vedic civilization with that 
of the Indus Valley and has found that they are quite distinct; and 
as the entry of the Aryans into India, according to his view of the 
date of the Rigveda, is subsequent to 1500 B.C., more than a thou- 
sand years after the last vestige of the Indus Valley Civilization 
disappeared, he cannot think of the Aryans in connection with the 
Indus Valley civilization. 

Now the presumed age of the Rigveda is really no barrier to the 
Aryan authorship of the Indus culture (if other evidence proves that 
hypothesis) for, in the first instance, that age is not known with 
even an approximate degree of certainty, and secondly, because the 
Rigr>cda can safely be taken to have represented a period long poste- 
rior to the advent of the Aryans into India. As to the existence of 
the Aryans in the Indus Valley at so early a period as the age of the 
Indus culture, it is held by some, on the evidence of skeletal material, 
that the Aryans formed part of the diverse population of these 
days. 

Various arguments have been advanced by Sir John Marshall 
in order to prove that the Indus Valley civilization was quite dis- 
tinct from, and earlier than, the Vedic civilization. One of his 
principal arguments, viz., the borrowing of the Siva^cult of Mohenjo- 

197 

v,\.— la 



THE VEDIC AGE 


daro by the Vedic Aryans^ has been noted above. Among others 
may be mentioned the aDsencd of the horse and presence of icons. 
As regards the hrst, Dr. MacKay takes the model ammal iliustratea 
in Ph Vlil. 2 to represent a horse, and has conjectured that the 
Indus Valley people probably knew the horse at about 25UU JB.C. 
at the latest. Ihe finds of saddles in some of the lowest strata at 
Mohenjo-daro, and the representation of the horse in the Indus 
Valley art seem to prove that the horse was known. As to the 
second, it is true that the Vedic religion was aniconic to a very 
great extent. But it is not unlikely that the Rigveda represents 
an earlier phase of the culture found in the Indus Valley. The use 
of icons in the Indus Valley, as seen in the phallic cult, probably 
followed in the wake of Siva worship in the Rigveda, Later on, 
owing to contact with alien or non-Aryan elements, some concepts 
such as phallic worship, magic and charms, etc., were perhaps in- 
corporated in the comprehensive Hindu religious system. Simi- 
larly, the Mother Goddess (Aditi and Prithvi in the Rigveda) and 
Siva were developed in the period of the Indus Valley by synthesis 
and fusion with non-Aryans. There was thus a co-mingling of 
cultures, Vedic and non- Vedic, and for the authorship of the com- 
posite Indus Valley civilization, we need not look to any particular 
race. 

Although Sir John Marshall’s view is now generally accepted, 
some scholars still regard the Vedic civilization as older than that 
of the Indus Valley. It is impossible, at the present state of our 
knowledge, to come to any definite conclusion, but it has to be ad- 
mitted that there is no conclusive evidence against the view that 
ascribes the authorship of the Indus Valley civilization to the Rig- 
vedic Aryans, and regards it as a logical corollary, a lineal descen- 
dant, of the culture described in the Rigveda, But even then the 
authorship of the Indus Valley civilization cannot be ascribed to 
any particular race, as every element in the diverse population con- 
tributed its share to the civilization. Even assuming that the 
Rigvedic civilization was earlier, we must remember that during 
the period that intervened between it and the Indus Valley civiliza- 
tion, the Vedic religion was incorporating many alien and non- 
Aryan features such as phallus worship, Naga worship, magic and 
spells, etc., and was already tending to become comprehensive, 
composite and all-embracing, harmonising different constituent 
elements and catering to the needs of the various strata. It would 
not, therefore, be correct to ascribe the authorship of the Indus Valley 
culture to the Aryan or any other particular race. It represents 
the synthesis of the Aryan and non-Aryan cultures. The utmost 
that we can say is that the Rigvedic Aryans probably formed an 
important part of the populace in those days, and contributed their 
share to the evolution of the Indus Valley civilization. 

198 



THE INDUS Valley civilization 

9. EXTENT, CONNECTIONS, 4ND SURVIVALS OF THE 
INDUS CIVILIZATION 

The very fact that Mohenjo-daro and Harappa, the first two 
prehistoric sites excavated in the Indus Valley, although ‘about 400 
miles apart, present a homogeneous culture, shows that the civili- 
zation was neither local nor regional, nor confined to any restricted 
area. Subsequent excavations in a large number of other sites 
have brought to light prehistoric antiquities representing the iden- 
tical civilization, and these indicate that Mohenjo-daro and Harappa 
do not mark the extreme limits of its extent. The late Mr. N. G. 
Majumdar’s exploration in Sind revealed various settlements of the 
Indus Valley civilization in many places in Sind, from the modern 
Hyderabad, 60 miles north-east of Karachi in the south, to Gujo, 
Vijnot, and JacobabM in the north, forming a long chain of mounds 
between the present course of the Indus and the foot-hills of the 
Kirthar range. The annexed map (No. 2) shows that these pre- 
historic sites follow the old lines of communication between southern 
and northern Sind through the hill range. Chanhu-daro, over a 
hundred miles south-east of Mohenjo-daro, and Amri, the same 
distance down-stream from Mohenjo-daro, are important sites at 
which the same civilization has been found. On the west bank of 
the Indus, Lohumjo-daro, Ali Murad, Jhukar, Ghazi Shah, Alor, etc. 
are the principal sites from which several objects of the Indus cul- 
ture were recovered. Further west, Sir Aurel Stein’s explorations 
have proved the extension of the Indus Valley civilization to Dabar 
Kot, Sur Jangal, and Periano Ghundal in Northern Baluchistan and 
Kulli and Mehi in Southern Baluchistan. According to Stein, Shahi 
Tump marks the outpost of the Indus Valley civilization.^*^ 

Terra-cottas recovered at Buxar and at Pataliputra (Patna) 
indicate the extent of the cultural influence of the Indus Valley 
eastward.^' In the Ghazipur and Benares districts were found 
pictographs, carnelian beads, and objects exactly similar to those 
found in the Indus Valley. There are various ancient sites in the 
United Provinces in the Gangetic basin from which relics of copper 
civilization have been reported, 

Kotla Nihang Khan, near Rupar on the Sutlej in the Ambala 
district below the Simla hills, about 220 miles due east of Harappa, 
also records finds typical of the Indus Valley sites. 

Thus the Indus Valley civilization seems to have embraced the 
whole of Sind and the Punjab, the bulk of Kathiawar, a part of the 
coastal region, the valleys of North-west Frontier province, and a 
part at least of the Gangetic basin. 

The extent of the Indus Valley civilization indicates its con- 
nections practically with the whole of Northern India, and in the 
west, with all the contemporary cultures. Immediately the dis- 

199 



THE VEDIC AGE 


coveries in the Indus Valley were published^ Sumerologists came 
forward with affinities of the Indus Valley civilization with Sumer, 
and at the outset the Indus Valley civilization was designated Indo- 
Sumerian. But despite its close contact with ancient Sumer, the 
Indus Valley civilization has peculiarities of its own. It has re- 
cently been shown that the similarities between the two cultures 
have been over-emphasized and the differences overlooked. At 
any rate there is an overwhelming mass of evidence showing that 
a flourishing trade, probably through the land routes in Baluchistan, 
existed between the Indus Valley and Sumer in ancient times. 
Numerous seals of Indian design and workmanship have been found 
at various Sumerian and Elamite sites. Importations from Sumer 
recovered in the Indus Valley, however, are comparatively very 
few. A white marble seal, an engraved steatite vessel, an etched 
cornelian bead, a model ram, an adze axe, and small pottery rings 
used as net- weights have been recorded as probable importations 
from Sumer, indicating trading intercourse. The most important 
piece of evidence testily ing to the influence oi the Indus Valley on 
Sumer is the fashion of hair-dressing adopted by Sumerian women 
from the Indus Valley.^* 

For associations with Egypt, however, we have to depend only 
on indirect connection suggested by certain objects and motifs. No 
definite object of Egyptian workmanship has been found in the 
Indus Valley, nor has any Egyptian site recorded an Indus Valley 
object. Segmented beads and hemispherical terminals of necklaces, 
bull-legged stools, small model beds with recumbent female figu- 
rines, female figurines suckling a child, faceted beads, fly-shaped 
beads, cord designs, candle stands and mussel-shell-shaped spoons, 
are among the various objects that link the Indus Valley and Egypt. 
The borrowings appear to have taken place through Sumer and 
Elam as intermediaries. 

Though Stein’s researches clearly show that the population of 
Baluchistan was far greater than it is now, and that various land 
routes through Baluchistan were extensively used in ancient times 
for trade purposes, it appears probable that the Indus Valley people 
also used sea-routes, despite lack of corroborative evidence. 

Before dealing with the survivals of the Indus Valley civiliza- 
tion, we may consider the causes that led to its decay and dis- 
appearance. The progressive desiccation of the lower Indus Valley 
was the main cause of the evacuation of the Indus cities. The grow- 
ing danger of floods was certainly responsible for the evacuation of 
Mohenjo-daro. The Indus floods, however, cannot account entirely 
for the desertion of the Indus settlements, though possibly climatic 
changes were an important reason. There is a remarkable dearth 
of means of defence both structural, such as walls, turrets, etc., and 
mechanical, such as weapons, etc., and it is probable that these ricli, 

200 



THE INDUS VALLEY CIVILIZATION 


unguarded cities, with their unwarlike mercantile population, were 
sacked by invading tribes, some of whom may have been Aryans. 
The skeletons found at Mohenjo-daro bear out this conjecture. 
A similar fate overtook the palace of Minos at Crete. 

The discovery of the Indus Valley civilization has pushed back 
the history of India to the period 3000-25P0 B.C. if not earlier still. 
It is generally believed that there is a hiatus in Indian culture of 
at least 1000 years, up to c. 1500 B.C. when the Aryans set foot in 
India. It will be shown later (Ch. XIV) that according to the tradi- 
tional history of the Hindus as recorded in the Puranas, ancient 
history ends with the Mahabharata war, which was fought in c. 
1400 B.C., and goes back to the period immediately after the Flood. 
As Mohcnjo-daro culture is a post-Flood event, we may hold that 
there is a continuity of historical traditions right* from the Mohenjo- 
daro period downi to the Mahabharata war, and these grow more 
and more reliable as we come to later times ending in the Gupta 
Age (fourth century A.D.).^ 

Punch-marked coins, with their symbols reminiscent of the Indus 
Valley script, and v/ith their standard of weight conforming to the 
weight system at Mohenjo-daro, constitute an important survival 
of the Indus Valley dating from before 400 B.C. The die-struck 
and cast varieties of ancient Indian coins appear to be indebted to 
the Indus Valley for their form. Some of the motifs, designs, 
.shapes . and forms found in the pottery and terra-cotta objects at 
Mohonjn-daro and Haranpa find their counter-part in the objects 
discovered in the Punjab and the North-West, belonging to the 
earlv centuries before the Christian era. In the field of religious 
symbols, it may be sugcested that the horn-crown on the head of 
fiiva Pasupati i)i the Indus Valley has survived as a symbol of great 
signifiCcance in the navdipada , and the images of Siva as DaVshina- 
mo^ti and Buddha as Yogi are due to the influence of the Indus 
culture. 

ThC'C instances indicate that there was probably no complete 
break or hiatus after the Indus Valley civilization. 


GENKHM. RFFFUKNCKS 

MACKAY. E.J.H.: Fiirthcr E.vcavfifU'tnr (it Mohenijo^daro. Two vols. T^olbi. 193S. 
MAJUMDAR. N.C.: Fyrnlurations in Sivd, No. 48. Dolbi. 193^. 

MARSHALL, SIR JOHN: Mohenjo-daro and th(^ Indus Cwilization. Three vols. 
T/onrlon, 1931. 

VATS, M.S.: Excoimtiois at Haroppa. Two vols. Delhi. 1940. 

1. The name Mohenjo-daro has been variously interpreted to mean “the mound 
of the dead” (Moh. Ind., P. I), “the mound of the confluence” {JR AS. 1932. 
p. 456. fn. I), “the mound of the killed” ( Mahan- jo-Daro, p. I) or “the mound 
of Mohan.” 

Ui.Haiiappa, p. 13. 

2. Moh. Ind., p. 274 (Mackay), 274, fn. 2 (.Marshall): Mariwala, Ancient Sind, p. 9. 

3. Carlcton, Buried Empires, p. 151. * 

4. Childo, Neio Light, p. 209; Dikshit, Preh. Civ., p. 25. 

4n. Harappa, p. 6. 

5. Mackay, BMFA, XXXIV, p. 91; cf. Ckan-d.. p. 235. 

201 



THE VEDIC AGE 


6. Cf. Chan^d., pp. 236 ff. 

7. Cf. Dikshit, Preh. Civ., pp. 31-2*’ 

8. Carleton, Buried Empires, p. 154. 

9. Script, p. 32. 

10., Dr. Hunter regards them as coins or stamped ingots — JR AS, 1032, p. 474. 

11. Dr. Thomas suggests that the seals served the combined function of seal, 
amulet, and ex voto {JRAS, 1932, p. 460), and Dr. Hunter states that they 
were used for stamping unbaked clay to be carried outside the city with the 
offerings (JRAS, 1932, p. 471). 

12. Mackay, JRSA, 82, p. 218. Venkateswara refers to these as Dipalakshmi figures 
on account of their analogy with later metal figures in South India holding 
oil in hand (Cult. Her., Ill, p. 60). 

12a. Cf. Ch. Vni, p. 158, for the suggestion that the idea of the Mother Goddess 
was imported by the Dravidians from the West. 

13. Cf. Childe, New Light, p. 222. 

14. Cf. Ch. X, below, p. 203, and Ch. VIII, above, p. 161. 

14a. RV, n. I. 6; 33. 9; X. 92. 9; Mookerji, POC, VUI, p. 452. 

15. Cf. Pusalker. Pr&chyavani, I, pp. 29-31. 

16. Cf. Viswanatha, Racial Synthesis in Hindu Culture, p. 26, 

17. For Indus Script, See Moh. Ind. (Chs. XXII, XXIII) and articles by Fabri, 
Heras, Hertz, Hevesy, Hrozny, Hunter, Meriggi, Otto, Petrie, Piccoli, Pran 
Nath, Hoss, Sankarananda, Sastri and Waddell in the Bibliography. 

18. Preh, Civ., p. 46. 

18a. See ante, Ch. VIII, p. 158 ff . 

19. Carleton, Buried Empires, p. 145. 

20. IC, in, pp. 663-73; CS, VI, p. 435. 

21. For different views on the authors of the Indus Culture, see Moh. Ind. 
(pp. 107-12) and articles by Banerji, Banerji-Sastri, Bhandarkar, Cadell, 
Chanda, Chatterji, Heras, Keith, Law, Mariwalla, Mookeiji, Pusalker, Venka- 
teswara, Sankarananda, Sarup, Sastri, Shembavnekar, Sur, and Waddell in the 
Bibliography. 

22. Datta, Rigvedic Culture of the Prehistoric Indus, Foreword, p. XXV; Chau- 
dhuri, CR, June 1945. 

23. Cf. Childe, New Light, p. 210. 

24. JRAI, 64, p. 193. 

25. JBHS, m, pp. 187-91. 

26. It is suggested that the civilization extended southward into the Hyderabad 
State, the Karnatak, the Nilgiris, the Tinnevelly district and even as far as 
Ceylon (JIH, XVI, p. 12); but the evidence is far too meagre to justify the 
inference. 

27. Cf. Carleton, Buried Empires, p. 161. 


202 



BOOK THREE 

THE ARYANS IN INDIA 




CHAPTER X 


THE ARYAN PROBLEM 

It was the Florentine merchant Filippo Sassetti who, after five 
years’ stay in Goa (1583-1588), declared for the first time that thei’e 
existed a definite relation between Sanskrit and some of the prin- 
cipal languages of Europe. But that this relation is due to origin 
from a common source v/as suggested only in 1786 by Sir William 
Jones in his famous address to the Asiatic Society of Bengal. He 
thus established the common origin of a number of languages such 
as Greek, Latin, Gothic, Celtic, Sanskrit, Persian, etc., to which 
the scholars have given the name Indo-European or Indo-Germanic, 
and therewith laid the foundation of the Science of Comparative 
Philology. The third and the final step in formulating the Aryan 
problem was taken by Max Miiller, who declared in emphatic terms; 
“Aryan, in scientific language, is utterly inapplicable to race. It 
means language and nothing but language: and if we ffpeak of Aryan 
race at all. we .should know that it means no more than X4- Aryan 
speech.”^ This purely linguistic formulation of the problem was, 
however, never fully accepted by the learned or the laity. On the 
contrary, a romantic reaction, which identified language with race, 
set in soon and was given powerful expression by Penka who de- 
clared language to be “the organic product of an organism subject 
to organic laws.’’^ The linguistic world of the last century was 
thus sharply divided into two schools of thought, as old as the 
Greeks of the classical age, who also were unable to decide whether 
language is a phu^is (inborn quality) or merely a thesis (acquired 
hab’t).^ Today Muller's school is dominant, no doubt, but Penka’s 
is yet far from discredited, for it is now realized that, though by no 
means determined by race, yet, as a social phenomenon, a language 
can assume its particular aspect only within a particular societv, 
and that in those very early times, when the original Indo-European 
language was gradually taking shape, such a particular societv 
could have been based only on racial affinitv, purely cultural bonds 
being out of the question. In fact, at the beginning, every natural 
language must have been confined within a not too large racial 
group — though it by no means follows that there could not have 
originated more than one language within one racial group at the 
beginning. It is clear, therefore, that the race-question, if rightly 
understood, is by no means irrelevant to the Aryan problem. Only 
it is necessary to remember that the racial group, within which the 
primitive Indo-European language originated, may have itself adopt- 
ed a non-Indo-European language in course of its history, or may 
have altogether passed out of existence. Ours will therefore be a 

705 



THE VEDIC AGE 


double task: to try to identify anthropologically and locate geo- 
graphically the primitive racial group within which the basic Indo- 
European language, as reconstructed by Comparative Philology, had 
originated. 

There being — in spite of Penka and his schooH — no organic 
relation between language on the one hand and race and geography 
on the other, our method cannot but be empirical. And ^he obvious- 
ly most important empiric fact about the known Indo-European 
languages is that quite a large number of them are crowded together 
within the comparatively small space of Europe, covering practi 
cally the whole of that continent, whereas outside Europe, instead of 
a compact body of idioms of that speech-family are found only 
scattered members of it, stretching out, as it were, in single file, 
between the Semitic and the Altaic-Finno-Ugrian linguistic areas, 
and ending, at least in the age of the earlier Rigveda, in the region 
of the Punjab. The geographical distribution of the idioms of the 
Indo-European speech-family, therefore, does suggest that the 
original home of the Indo-Europeans is to be sought rather in Europe 
than in Asia. Moreover, of all the living Indo-European languages 
of the present day, it is Lithuanian, and not Sanskrit (even if con- 
sidered a living language) or any of its daughter dialects, that has 
kept closest to the basic idiom reconstructed by Comparative Philo- 
^ogy. 

These two fundamental facts make a strong prima facie case 
against the theory that India was the original home of the Aryans. 
This view, though highly favoured at one time,^ has not many sup- 
porters now, though some Indian scholars still tenaciously cling to 
it. ITieir views and arguments have been sununarized in the Ap- 
pendix. The reader will find a refutation of some of them in course 
of this chapter. But while no definite conclusion about this much- 
debated problem can yet be reached, it may be reasonably urged 
that had India been the original home of the Aryans'- they would 
have certainly tried fully to Aryanize the whole of this sub-conti- 
nent before crossing the frontier barriers in quest of adventure. 

The fact that the whole of South India and some parts of North 
India too are to this day non-Aryan in speech is the strongest single 
argument against the Indian-home hypothesis, especially as the 
existence of a Dra vidian speech-pocket (Brahui) in Baluchistan 
clearly suggests that the whole or at least a considerable part of 
India was originally non-Aryan in speech. The cerebral sounds of 
Sanskrit which sharply distinguish it from all the other Indo-Euro- 
pean speech-families, including Iranian, are best explained as the 
result of Austria and Dravidian influence on the language of the 
incoming Aryans. Could it be proved that the language of the 
prehistoric Mohenjo-daro culture was Sanskrit or proto-Sanskrit, 
then indeed it might have been possible to argue that in spite of 

'^06 



THE AflYAN PROBLEM 


all the evidence to the contrary Ii\dia was the original home pi 
me Aryans, lor mere is no aeimiie prooi ol me existence oi an 
Aryan race or language outsiae inaia previous lo me age or me 
iviuneiijo-aaro culture, liut trie Ivionenju-aaio sears oexiig stiii un- 
aecipnereci, we cannot, ror the present, hazard any opinion on tnis 
subject. ' 

Many scholars hold tne view that the Vedic culture was lunda- 
mentaiiy diiterent trom tnat of Mohenjo-daro, and later in date. 
T’liis question has been discussed above,^" but special stress may be 
laid on one point. On the evidence of a weil-known plaque dis- 
covered at Mohenjo-daro, Sir John Marshall declared that tne cult 
of Siva-Pasupati Rudraj was borrowed by the Vedic Aryans 
from the Mohenjo-daro culture. Now, it is hardly an accident that 
precisely this Rudra — and no other deity — is regarded in Vedic cult 
and religion as an apotropaeic god of aversion — to be feared but 
not adored.-' Offerings to all other gods are sacrificed into the fire, 
but those to Rudra and his servants (Rudriyas) are simply depo- 
sited at cross-roads or various forbidding places.^ Rudra and the 
Rudriyas are, therefore, in every respect analogous to the Theoi 
Apopowpaioi of Greece, the gods of the pre-Hellenic autochtho- 
nous population of that country J ’ Should not the Rudra gods, too, 
be regarded in the same way as gods of the pre-Aryan population 
of India? But to admit that would be to confess that the Mohenjo- 
daro people were not Aryans. It is true, as noted above, that Sir 
John’s view is not accepted by all.‘^ But if the oldest traceable 
civilization of India be regarded as of non-Aryan inspiration, the 
conclusion becomes almost irresistible that the Aryans had come 
to India from outside. 

But why consider the Mohenjo-daro civilization to be the oldest 
traceable civilization of India? What is there to prove that the 
Aryan culture of Rigvedic India was not older than the culture re- 
presented by the ruins of Mohenjo-daro? Thus arises the great 
question of the age of the Rigveda, which, however, in the present 
context can but be touched in passing on the background of the 
general problem of the first emergence of the Aiyans into the light 
of history. 

From a purely linguistic point of view the Rigveda in its pre- 
sent form cannot be dated much earlier than 1000 B.C. The 
language of the Rigt>eda is certainly no more different from that 
of the Avestan Gat has than is Old English from Old High German, 
and therefore they must be assigned to apprbximately the same 
age; and the relation between the language of the Gdthds and that 
of the Old Persian inscriptions of the sixth century B.C. cannot be 
better visualized than by comparing tfie former with Gothic and 
the latter with Old High German. Now, if the inscriptions of the 
Achaemenid emperors of Iran were composed in Old High CJerman, 

707 



THE VEDICi AGE 


what would be the date assigned to Ulfilas’ Gothic Bible? Surely 
something like 1000 B.C. This then would be the approximate 
date of the Gdthds of Avesta^^ — with which the Rigveda in its pre- 
sent form must have been more or less contemporaneous. ^Thus 
from general linguistic considerations we get for the RigVedic 
language, as known to us, an approximate date of 1000 Al- 

though the culture represented by it must be considerably older, it 
can hardly be pushed back considerably before 1500 B.C. The 
Rigvedic language, with its date of about 1000 B.C., therefore, fur- 
nishes the terminus ad quern and the Mohenio-daro culture of about 
2500 B.C. the terminus a quo of the first Aryan invasion of India. 
In order to ascertain the extra-Indian (as shown above) original 
home of the Aryans we shall now discuss the earliest datable traces 
of their eastern tribes (the Indo-Iranians) and then try to follow 
up the indication of those traces further back. 

/The earliest indubitable trace of a definitely characterized 
Indo-Iranian language of the Indo-European family is to be found, 
as is W’^ell known, in the names of the four Vedic gods Mitra, Varuna, 
Indra, and the Nasatyas (in slightly different forms) occurring in 
records of treaties, dis covered at Boghaz-kdi, between the Hittite 
king Shubbiluliuma and the Mit^hT'kliig Mattiuaza of about 1400 
B.C.'s It is vei^^ significant that the determinative “god” in the 
plural has been placed before each of the two names Mitra and 
Varuna, for the purpose of this plural determinative could have 
been only to suggest that the two names formed a Dimndva com- 
pound — just as in Vedic Sanskrit.''^ Yet it will be wTong to con- 
clude from these names that the language from which they were 
borrowed was nothing but our Vedic Sanskrit, and to regard the 
minor differences”''^ as due solely to the inadequacy of the Akkadian 
syllabary used by the Hittites. For the numerals (aika, tera, vanza, 
satta), occurring in a manual of chariot-racing composed in the 
Hittite language by a Mitannian author named Kikkuli, likewise 
discovered at Boghaz-koi, clearly point to an archaic Indo-Iranian 
dailect which was not yet fully characterized either as Indo-Aryan 
or as Iranian. 

On the other hand it is equally difficult to accept the view of 
the writer in the Cambridge Ancient History that here we have in 
the fourteenth century B.C. the undifferentiated Indo-Iranians 
“who at a later period formed these two important Indo-European 
stocks.”^® For if the forefathers of the Vedic Aryans were still 
in Cappadocia in the fourteenth century B.C. on their march to- 
wards India, there would be no time left for them to forget all their 
previous history before givihg the final form to the Rigvedic hymns 
not later than 1000 B.C.: it really cannot be proved that the Vedic 
Aryans retained any memory of their extra-Indian associations, 

208 



THE ARYAN PROBLEM 


excepting perhaps a camouflaged reminiscence of their sojourn in 
Iran.'^ 

But Boghaz-koi is not the only place yielding deflnite proof .of 
the existence of an archaic Indo-Iranian speech-form about *1400 B.C. 
The clay tablets with Babylonian cuneiform script discovered at 
El-Amarna in Egypt^-C) have revealed the fact that numerous dynasts 
with Indo-Iranian-looking names (such as Artamanya, Arzciiviya, 
Yasdata, SuUarua, etc., in which no specifically Indo-Aryan or 
Iranian feature is perceptible), were ruling in Syria about the same 
time/ ‘ Linguistic evidence derived from regions as distant from 
each other as Cappadocia and Syria, therefore, definitely proves that 
about 1400 B.C. there existed in those regions archaic Indo-Iranian 
speech-forms which are undoubtedly older than, the oldest Avestan 
or Sanskrit known to us. 

But it is possible perhaps to reach back still farther. About 
1760 B.C. Babylon fell into the hands of the Kassites who are 
known to have used the word ''surias^ to designate the sun.^^ This 
is the oldest attested Vv^ord of definitely Indo-Iranian stamp which 
was perhaps borrowed by the Kassites from the Inda-Iranians before 
they dispersed from iheir common home, as suggested by 
feld.'^'^ But the evidence of this solitary word of Indo-Iranian 
origin cannot be regarded as adequate proof of the existence of 
Indo-Iranians in western Asia already in the eighteenth century 
B.C. Nor does the joint testimony of this word and the Indo- 
Iranian names of the Syrian dynasts of the fifteenth century B.C. 
warrant the assumption that the Indo-Iranians, already as a speci- 
fically characterized Indo-European tribe, entered Asia from Europe 
over the Caucasus, and after occupying Iran pushed on farther to 
the Punjab, as was held by Hirt.^'" For even though the general 
movement of the Indo-Europeans in Asia might have been from 
west to east, yet it should have been quite possible for some Indo- 
Iraiiian-speaking tribes to sweep over western Asia in a back-surge 
of invasion. 

This is precisely the jview ^pressed. 
on hiHoIncS ^ tried to show that the ppint froin^ w^ 

dme Indo-Iranians began to spread eastward into the Punjab and 
westward into tKe Mesopot^ian worlds is to be 
ifi? the region of the Pamix plateau. What Eduard Meyer urges 
against Hirt’s theory is worth quoting: “There are, however, ver^’^ 
grave difficulties in the way of accepting this theory. Precisely 
those regions in which according to this theory, these (Indo-Iranian) 
tribes should have settled down at first — and which in the histo- 
rical period should have been the theatre of their activities — 
should then have been so completely evacuated by them that not 
a single trace of them was left behind. For among the numerous 
personal and place-names handed down to us from Armenia up to 

209 



THE VEDIC AGE 


the end of the Assyrian there is absolutely nothing Indo- 

European, and even the frontier mountains of Media are inhabited 
by non-Indo-Iranian tribes: it is quite apparent that the Indc- 
ii'anian Medes have here gradually pushed forward from the east 
and attained supremacy. On the other hand, although positive 
proof is wholly lacking, it is quite impossible to assign for the begin- 
nings of the Vedic age — and of the specific Indo- Aryan culture 
beginning therewith — any date later than 1500 

This theoi-y of a westward migration of the Indo-lranians from 
their common home, so ably presented by Eduard Meyer"- to ex- 
plain the apparently simuitaneous beginning of Vedic culture in 
India and the appearance of Aryan princes in Mesopotamia 
i.Mitanni), Syria, and Palestine about the middle of the second mii- 
lennium B.C., v/as shared also by Oldenberg'-^^ and^Kei^i.^-^ Johan- 
nes PTiedrich, too, at least conceded the possibility of a westward 
movement of a small body of Indo-lranians.^^ ^ Most emphatic on 
this point is, however, Wilhelm Brandenstein, who says — without 
how^ever offering any net^nargunieht of TTfs own — '‘there can be no 
doubt that also Indians (probably Vedic Indians) have lived in Fur- 
ther Asia.’’^- On the whole it is quite clear that the Indo-lranians 
advanced not only into India but also spread westward from their 
common home that was situated probably in the Pamir region 
(Meyer) or in Russian Turkestan (Herzfeld). And the dispersal 
of the Indo-lranians from their original home should have begun 
about 2000 B.C., since the Indo-Aryans had become completely 
Indianized when the Rigvedic culture started on its course as a 
distinct product of the Indian soil about 1500 B.C. Starting from 
this we shall now discuss the larger problem of the original home 
of the Indo-Europeans. 

With the possible exception of Luvian, of which we know very 
little, Hittite is the oldest known Indo-European dialect. Yet, 
Cappadocia in Asia Minor, the seat of this oldest attested (from 
about 1900 B.C.)^*^ Indo-European language, cannot claim to have 
been the Indo-European original home; for, as Gbtze-'’ has shown, 
the pre-Hittite Assyrian commerical colonies of Cappadocia, after 
an uninterrupted flourishing existence of about one thousand years, 
came to an abrupt end about 1950 B.C., apparently due to Hittite 
invasion. The Hittites, therefore, came to Cappadocia from outside, 
but they could not have come from very far, for the earliest theatre 
of Indo-European historical activity could not have been too dis- 
tant from the Indo-European original home. 

The date 1950 B.C., practically certain for the Hittite inva- 
sion of Asia Minor, is of great importance for Indo-European pre- 
history, for the Indo-Iraniaiis, too, should have reached their com- 
mon home (in the Pamir region or in Russian Turkestan, see supra) 
about that time, since to account for the beginning of the speci- 

210 



THE AKYAN PftOBLEM 


iically Indian Vedic culture about 1500 B.C. no date much later 
than 2000 B.C. can be postulated for the occupation of their 
common home by the Indo-lramans. 

Now if the two oidesi known Indo-European tribes, the Hittites 
and the Indo-Iranians, appear about the same time (c, 2000 B.C.) 
in Cappadocia and Central Asia respectively, then it will be reason- 
able to conclude that the original home whence both the Hittites 
and the Indo-Iranians came was more or less c'quidistant from Cap- 
padocia and Central Asia. Hence follows that neither India nor 
Central or Western Phirope could have been the original Indo- 
European home.^^^ 

For our problem it is now of capital importance to enquire 
from which direction the Hittites entered Asia Minor. On the 
ground of similarity between prehistoric ceramics of about 2800 
EFC. discovered in Eastern Anatolia and Macedonia, Gbtze con- 
cluded that the “Indo-European Hittites” entered Asia Minor from 
Europe' ' after crossing the straits.- But this theory does not, 
and cannot, explain wiiy in the historical period the Hittites were 
settled not in Western but in Central and Eastern Asia Minor, and 
it is not without reason that Eduard Meyer ' suggested instead 
that they came from the east. 

Of the other Indo-European languages of xAsia, special impor- 
tance^ for the Aryan problem, attaches to Tocharian — a late attested 
(from the fifth to the tenth century A.D.) Centum language of 
Eastern Turkistan,*’ ^ of which the relation with other Indo-European 
languages and the basic idiom has been fully discussed in a re- 
markable article by Professor Benveniste.^ ^ Before the discovery 
of Tocharian it was possible to maintain — in spite of the fact that 
the Galataeans (Celts) invaded and occupied Asia Minor in the 
third century B.C. — that on the whole all the Centum languages 
are to the west and all the Satem languages are to the east of the 
Vistula, and on the basis of this seemingly correct observation Hirt 
built up his ingenious theory that before their final dispersal the 
Indo-Europeans should have been settled on both sides of that river, 
which itself was apparently the main cause of the Satem’-Ce^itum 
dialect-split. ^ ' Now, however, after the discovery of Tocharian, 
HirFs theory can no longer be maintained. For Benveniste has 
shown that Tocharian, which like Hittite had been characterized 
as a distinct dialect even before the Satcm-Ccnhim split had taken 
place, was originally at home far to the east of the Vistula. 

Of the Indo-European languages of Europe, Lithuanian, as al- 
ready stated above, is certainly the most archaic. Organically, as 
a definitely characterized Satem-language, it must be considered 
of later origin than Hittite and Tocharian, and yet in external 
appearance (flexions and endings) it looks older than even these. 
This apparent contradiction can be explained, so far as can be seen, 

211 



Tl-IE VEDIC AGE 


only on one hypothesis: it is necessary to insist that it is a hypothe- 
sis pure and simple and nothing more: an Indo-European group 
bodily came to Lithuania after the Satem-Centuvi dialect split, and 
there in the backwoods started a long but uneventful national life 
in practically complete isolation, affording their language little 
opportunity to change and progress, while to all the other Indo- 
European-speaking countries came not so much the Indo-Europeans 
themselves as their languages. In other words, though Schmidt’s 
wave-theory of the spread of dialects should be retained for the 
other Indo-European dialects, yet, so far as Lithuanian is concern- 
ed, we should accept Schleicher’s older family-tree theory. 

This is frankly speculative, but nevertheless we shall have to 
accept it, unless we refuse to face the problem. And if we accept 
it we shall have also to admit that the Indo-European original home 
could not have been very far removed from Lithuania, for bodily 
movements of peoples over long distances could not have been 
possible in those early times excepting over a long period of clash 
and contact with alien races and speeches, as the result of which 
the language of the immigrants could not but have been profoundly 
modified.’' It is necessary to remember in this connection that 
the Lithuanian speech-area of mediaeval Europe extended much 
farther to the east than it does today. And the fact that Lithuanian 
loan-words in Finnish are more numerous than the Slavic ones in 
that language clearly suggests that in prehistoric times the Lithua- 
nian speech-area extended much farther still to the east, perhaps 
separating the Slavs from the Finns, as suggested by Hirt. ^ 

The oldest attested indo-Eui’opean language of Europe, namely 
Greek, is frankly an import from outside. As Hail‘d' aptly says: 
“Like Sanskrit, Greek, with all its entirely Indo-European syntax 
and grammar, has a vast non-Indo-European vocabulary. The 
reason was the same in both cases. In both lands the invading 
Wiros (i.e. the Indo-Europeans j found a previously existing non- 
Aryan race with *wMch they mingled, the Hindus with the Dravi- 
dians, the Greeks Vfith the Minoans, and in both cases, while the 
language of the conqueror prevailed, that of the conquered sup- 
plied innumerable names and words to its vocabulary. In both 
countries the conquered race continued to exist side by side with 
the conquerors, the dark Dasyus with the fair Aryans, the dark 
Minoans with the fairer Hellenes.” It is generally admitted today 
that the rulers of Mycenaean Greece of the fourteenth and the 
thirteenth centuries B . C. were not of Greek stock and did not speak 
Greek. The first Greek-speaking people of Greece were the 
Achaians, who appeared on the scene about 1200 B.C. after the 
decline of the Mycenaean civilization, and adopted Mycenaean cul- 
ture. The Indo-European speaking tribes should therefore have 
entered Greece for the first time only about 1200 But there 

212 



THE ARYAN PROBLEM 


is nothing to tell us from what region precisely the Greek tribes 
came. 

Thus the most archaic (Lithuanian) as well as the oldest attested 
(Greek) Indo-European language of Europe fails to make out a 
definite case for an European original home of the Aryans. The 
other European languages of the same family need not be discussed 
for a solution of the Aryan problem from the linguistic point of 
view, for they are all violent variations of the original Indo-European, 
particularly Germanic and Celtic. In spite of this inconvenient 
fact a Germanic home theory has been always very popular with 
many eminent European scholars for racial reasons. It is argued 
by them that the interior of the Germanic countries — particular!:* 
Scandinavia — cannot be proved to have been evex occupied by an 
alien race. If yet the Germanic tribes have always spoken an Indo- 
European tongue — so it is asserted, because it is impossible to prove 
the contrary — then it will have to be assumed that Indo-European 
speech came into existence on Germanic soil, and that is to admit 
that Germany or some Germanic country was the original home of 
the Aryans.^^ This is in a nutshell the chief argument put forward 
by protagonists of the Germanic home theory. The inspirer of this 
school of thought w’as Penka, who passionately protested against 
the tendency of ethnologists to accept meekly the findings of phi- 
lology. Penka’s attitude is, however, irrational. The Aryan 
problem, as formulated by Max Muller, is a purely linguistic one, 
and it can be connected with ethnology only in the restricted 
sense explained at the beginning of this chapter. But the primary 
significance attached to the term ‘"Aryan’" by Penka is the physical 
type represented by the Scandinavians! It is not to be wondered, 
therefore, that starting with this assumption Penka succeeded in 
proving, at least to his own satisfaction, that Scandinavia was the 

cradle-land of the Tndo-Europeans.^2 

Modern supporters of Penka’s theory have altogether dropped 
the linguistic argument and tend to concentrate on prehistoric 
archaeology.-^ Thus the West Baltic coast has been regarded as 
the home of the Aryans, chiefly on the ground that the oldest and 
the simplest artifacts of the period following the palaeolithic age, 
as well as tasteful and technically perfected stone implements, are 
found there in abundance.^"^ But it has been rightly pointed out^"" 
that in that case the equally numerous and handsome stone artifacts 
of New Zealand would be an evidence for the high antiquity of 
Maori culture. Much stress was again laid on the geometric pat- 
terns on prehistoric pottery in Central Germany which were re- 
garded as of Indo-European creation. But apart from the validity 
of this assumption, the discovery of similar patterns on the pre- 
historic pottery of South Russia, Poland, and Tripolje (Ukraine) 

213 

V.A.— 14 



THE VEDIC AGE 


which were older than those of Germany negatives the theory of 
an original Aryan home in Germany 

Indeed, the antiquity of Tripolje pottery, which may be dated 
in the third millennium B.C., has induced Nehring to formulate the 
view that Tripolje culture is the culture of the original Indo-Euro- 
peans, and in his opinion ‘'the Indo-European original home lay 
indeed also in South Russia, but extended far beyond to the west.’'^^ 
That it could not have comprehended any part of Western Europe 
is pretty certain, for H. Guntert^Q and F. R. Schroder ^ have shown 
that Western Europe is one of those areas that were Aryanized last. 
Pokorny, too, by applying his substratum theory that a later lan- 
guage is always fundamentally modified by the older language over 
which it spreads,^ came to the conclusion that “as the original home 
of the Indo-Europeans before the dispersal of the tribes (c. 2400 B.C.) 
should be regarded the wide stretches of land between the Weser 
and the Vistula and beyond these up to White Russia and Vol- 
hynia,”^^ 

The region indicated by Nehring as the Indo-European cradle- 
land is indeed rather too wide, but from the present-day standpoint 
of Comparative Philology it would be absurd to think that the 
original Indo-Europeans “must have lived for long in a severely 
restricted area,'' as Giles^^ inclined to believe. Striking iso- 
glosses clearly show that various movements must have taken 
place among the different Indo-European tribes before they finally 
parted company. Brandenstein’s researches (see below) are in this 
regard of capital importance. Nor can it be doubted that the later 
Indo-Europeans, even before final dispersal, had ceased to be racially 
homogeneous, and therefore the question whether the Indo-Euro- 
peans were blondes or brunettes cannot be regarded as strictly re- 
levant. In recent times the Aryan problem has been hopelessly 
mixed up with the race question by European scholars of a certain 
school of thought, who, failing to achieve their object with the help 
of linguistics and archaeology, have adopted racial anthropology as 
their chief weapon of battle. Starting with the assumption that 
blonde hair was the chief characteristic of the Indo-Europeans they 
have naturally chosen Germany as the Indo-European cradle-land, 
and adduced as proof, in support of their theory, various facts such 
as that in Greek mythology Appollo has been called blonde and some 
prominent Romans (such as Cato the Censor and Sulla) have been 
described as “red-haired” or “golden-haired" by Plutarch. It hardly 
needs to be pointed out that red hair was regarded as something 
unusual and exceptional by the Greeks and Romans, and for that 
reason only attracted public attention in Greece and Rome. Blonde 
hair was known also in 'India. In fact, the grammarian Patan- 
jali®^ declared blonde hair to be one of the essential qualities in a 
BrShma^a. True Brahmaijas, therefore should have been blondes 

214 



THE ARYAN PROBLEM 


in the pre-Christian era. And yet India, the land of the Brahmai^ias, 
has never been claimed as the Indo-iiiuropean craclie-land by tne 
racial theorists ! 

The new line of research opened up by Brandenstein^^ is con- 
cerned chiefly with applied semasiology. He proceeds chiefly on 
the assumption that it is possible to draw definite conclusions about 
the cultural evolution of the primitive Indo-Europeans and their 
prehistoric seats of settlement from a study of the stocks of words 
they should have possessed at different stages, and also by examin- 
ing the changes of meaning undergone by those words. Branden- 
stein shows first that Indo-Iranian reveals an older stage of sema- 
siological evolution than that reflected in all the other Indo-European 
dialects put together, and from this he draws th^ reasonable con- 
clusion that the Indo-Iranians were the earliest to separate from the 
main body of Indo-Europeans, and that the other tribes continued 
to live together for some time after their departure. Indo-European 
of the period previous to the secession of the Indo-Iranians he calls 
Early Indo-European, and Indo-European of the period posterior to 
that secession, Late Indo-European. The Early Indo-European 
vocabulary, in Brandenstein’s opinion, reveals a steppe-land at the 
foot of a mountain-range as the original home which, he thinks, can 
be no other than the north-western Kirghiz steppe to the south of 
the Urals. As for Early Indo-European flora, there cannot be found 
the name of a single plant that is typically European, and the fauna 
of this period comprised mammals like the elk, otter, wild boar, 
wolf, fox, bear, etc. 

The later Indo-European vocabulary, however, reveals quite a 
different land and quite different plants and animals. In the place 
of words associated with dry steppe-land now crop up a number of 
vocables which clearly suggest swampy tracts, and now appears for 
the first time also the idea of bridges — suggesting settled residence; 
on the other hand, words denotative of fauna and flora of this period 
point to the territory immediately to the east of the Carpathians. 
Brandenstein therefore concludes that the undivided Indo-Europeans 
lived originally in what is now the Kirghiz steppe, from where the 
Indo-Iranian tribes moved eastward, and the other tribes, at a later 
date, westward. The westward-moving tribes, however, were split 
up into two groups by the Rokytno swamps, so that some of them 
struck north to be differentiated later into Nordics, and others ad- 
vanced into Ukraine and from there farther to the south and the 
west. 

It would be senseless to claim that every detail of the itinerary 
of the Indo-European tribes chalked out by Brandenstein is, or can 
be, correct. But it is significant that the* results obtained by him 
by applying his altogether new method should point to approxima- 
tely the same loctts as is indicated by the evidence of history, philo- 

ns 



THE VEDIC AGE 


logy, and archaeology. Indo,-European pre-history, as reconstructed 
by Nehring and Brandenstein, is by no means identical, but neither 
are the two mutually exclusive. The main difference is that Bran- 
densteia takes as an interim home of the west Indo-European tribes 
practically that very region which in Nehring’s view should have 
heen the Indo-European cradle-land. 

We shall now conclude this chapter with a brief examination 
of the evidence of the non-Indo-European language-groups on the 
Aryan problem. Similarities between Indo-European and B'inno- 
Ugrian language-groups are so striking*" that they cannot be brushed 
aside as cases of mere fortuitous coincidence; but on the other 
hand it would be conceding too much to them to postulate on their 
evidence an organic relation of distant common origin. The con- 
clusion in any case is irresistible that Indo-European and Finno- 
Ugrian had influenced each other in very early times. The original 
seat of the Finno-Ugrians was, however, in Central Russia. And it is 
significant that from purely ethnographical consideration, too, Flor® 
came to the conclusion that “genetically considered, the UraUans 
are, in many cases, the zone of origin of numerous Indo-European 
cultural phenomena.” 

Some such historical — not organic or genetic — relation between 
early Indo-European and early Semitic is hard to deny in face of 
the numerous striking points of similarity (if not identity) pointed 
out by Mdller — similarity in the endings of nominative, accusative, 
and genitive singular,** in certain elements of dual and plureil for- 
mation,*^ and perhaps also in nominative and accusative singular 
of the pronominal flexion.™ He even categorically declared that “the 
Semites did not radiate from Arabia as is assumed by most Semitists, 
but came to Arabia from a northern seat either through Asia Minor 
or over the Iranian plateau.”’^ 

Moller’s theory has indeed not been generally accepted by the 
scholarly world, but it is no longer possible to deny today that there 
must have been at least historical contact of some sort between 
Early Indo-European and Early Semitic. This is important, for if 
the primitive Indo-Europeans had on the one hand contact with the 
Finno-Ugrians of Central Russia and on the other with the Semites, 
then the region that naturally detaches itself as the probable Indo- 
European cradle-land is no doubt South Russia, specially as Indo- 
Finnic relations were decidedly more intimate. 

The evidence of linguistic palaeontology need not be considered 
in detail, since Schrader did that with masterly thoroughness in his 
well-known works;^® but it is important to remember that the region 
to which he assigned the Indo-European original home after his 
epoch-making researches' is also South Russia. The argument that 
has been most persistently levelled against Schrader is the so-called 
beech-argument; since the beech was known to the Indo-Europeans, 

216 



THE ARYAN PROBLEM 


it is argued, their original home must have been “to the west of a 
line drawn from Konigsberg in Prussia*to the Crimea and continued 
thence through Asia Minor, ’’^3 foj. the beech does not grow to the 
east of the line. But there is absolutely no certainty that the Indo-^ 
European word ^hhdgos, from which the English word “beech"’ is 
very probably derived, also signified the thing designated by this 
English word “beech.” Moreover, the word for “beech” seems to 
have been confined only to the western Indo-Europeans, for there 
is no trace of it in any eastern dialect if the late Kurdish word 
huz'^^ is left out of consideration. In spite of the enormous increase 
in knowledge since the days of Schrader it would be best, therefore, 
to adhere to his conclusion that South Russia, more than any other 
region, can claim to be regarded as the cradle-land of the Aryans 
( nr Indo-Europeans). 


1. Collected Works, New Impression, 1898, Vol. X (The Home of the Aryas), p. 90. 

2. Origines Aricac, 1883, p. 6. 

3. See Plato’s Cratylus and Christ’s Geschichte der Griechisclien LifteratUTf 
fiinfte Aufiagc von Witholm Schmid, erster Teil, Miinchen 1909, p. 639. 

4. Penka’s own arguments are of only historical interest today and need not be 
discussed. The chief exponent of Penka’s theory of the Germanic home of 
the Tndo-Euroneans in modern times was Gustav Kossinna. A brief summary 
of his theory has been given by Gordon Childe (Th-e Aryans, pp. 166 ff.). It 
may be mentioned that most of the articles on Indo-Euronean origins in the 
HirUFestschrift (Heidelberg, 1936) are from Kossinna’s school. 

5. Given up in Europe since it was discovered that Sanskrit does not give the 
truest picture of the original Indo-European. 

6. In this chapter the word “Aryan” has been used in the sense of “Indo- 
European,” 

7. For Mohenjo-daro cf, Ch, IX. 

8. Ch. IX, p. 197. 

9. In the oldest ritual texts every care is taken not to mention directly the name 

of this tjcrrible god. He is indirectly refen-ed to as “this god” or “the god 
whose name contains the word hhuia or (i.e., Bhutapati, Pasupati). The 

name occurring in a Rigvedic verse (11. 3. I) was purposely pronounced as 
Rudriya (Ait. Br., Ill, 3. 9-10), From the curious remarks made in Ait. Br., 
Ill, 3. 10 it also appears that the reading of RV, 11, 3. Ic was originally ahhi 
nah, etc.; but it was later altered so as not to give Rudra a pretext to rush to 
the place of sacrifice. Arbman in his dissertation on Rudra, (Uppsala, 1922) 
has made it probable that in respect of this god the later ritual texts give a 
more faithful picture of the popular beliefs of the Rigvedic age than the 
Rigveda itself. 

10. See Keith, RPVU, HOS., Vol. 31, p. 145. Precisely the same was the attitude 
of the Greeks towards Aeir apotropaeic foreign goddess Hekate (see Nilsson, 
Greek Religion, p. 204). 

11. See Jane Ellen Harrison, Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, second 
edition, pp. 8 ff. 

12. Cf. Ch. IX, pp. 191, 196 ff. 

13. This date of the Gdthds and tlieir author Zarathustra has been maintained — 
against indigenous Iranian taradition — by Ed. Meyer who declared it to be one 
of the incomprehensible things in history that anyone should consider Zara- 
thustra’s patron Vistaspa to have been the same person as the father of Darius 
I. So also Bartholomae, Zaratkustras Leben mid Lehre, pp. 10-11. For full 
literature on this point up to 1932 see Die Imnier in KuUurgeschichte des Alien 
Orients (Arthur Christensen), p. 213. 

14. Walther Wust who in recent times has tried most to push back the age of the 
Rigveda admits nevertheless that the Mohenjo-daro culture is not Indo- 
European and must have passed away before the Aryans occupied India 
(WZKM, XXXIV, pp, 173, 190). Cf. file views of Dr. S. K, Chatterii in Ch, 
VIII, p. 160 ff. 


217 



THE VEDIC AGE 

15. See Jenson, SPAW, 1919, pp. 367 ff., Forrer, ZDMG; 1922; pp. 254 ff., CHI, 
I, 72; CAH, II, 13. 

16. See Arthur Christensen, op. cit., p. 209, fn. 6. 

17. E.G., Skt. Indra but Hit. lu’-ta-ra; Skt. Varuna but Hit. U-ru-^van-a. These 
gods were worshipped not by the indigenous Mitanni people who were non- 
Indo-European in speech, but by their Aryan rulers known as Maryanni. The 
word maryanni may be connected with Rigvedic marya. 

18. Vol. II, p. 13. 

19. See next chapter. 

20. See Eduard Meyer, Geschichte des Altertums, third edition, Vol. I, § 468. 

21. These names have been fully discussed by Mironov in Acta Orientalia, Vol. 
XI, pp. 140 ff. For a helpful criticism of Mironov’s equations and etymologies 
see Keith, Woolner Comm. Vol., pp. 137 ff. 

22. See Eduard Meyer, op. cit., Vol. I, § 456. 

23. Iran in the Ancient East, 1941, p. 182. 

24. Die Indogermanen, Vol. I, p. 118. 

25. Geschichte des Altertums, II, I, second edition, 1928. p. 3.5. 

26. The same view has been expressed much more emphatically also by Herzfeld 
(op. cit., pp. 191-2) only with this difference — which is perhaps a necessary 
corrective to Meyer’s theory — that the original Indo- Iranian common home 
was situated in Russian Turkestan and not in the Pamir region. 

27. To admit that Vedic culture began about 1500 B.C. does not of course mean 
that the Rigvedic language as known to us is to be dated so early. On the 
contrary it suggests that the Rigvedic language assumed its present, form at a 
considerably later period, probably about 1000 B.C., as suggested above on 
linguistic grounds. 

28. For the first time in SB A, 1908, pp. 14 ff,. then again in KZ 1909, pp. I ff., 
and often later; Freiherr von Eickstiedt, as quoted by Nehring in his Studien zur 
indogermanischen Kultur und Urheimat, p. 227. considers Kazakstan to have 
been the common home of the Indo-Iranians; but he does not seem to have 
taken into consideration the possibility of a back-surge of the eastern Indo- 
Europeans. 

29. JR AS, 1909, pp. 1095 ff. 

30. Modi Memorial Volume, 1930, pp. 81 ff. Some scholars have expressed the 
view that the Aryans of Mitanni were Indians pure and simple; cf. Jacobi, 
JRAS, 1919, pp. 721 ff., Jensen, SBA, 1919, pp. 467 ff., Sturtevant, Yale Classical 
Studies, I, pp. 215 ff. 

31. See Ebert’s Reallexikon der V or geschichte, Vol. I, 1924, p. 137. But Friedrich 
has adopted a non-committal attitude in this regard in his article “Das erste 
Auftreten der Indogermanen” in Hirt-Festschrijt, Vol. II. 

32. Hirt-^Festschrift, Vol. II, p. 37. 

33. See my article in 1C, XI, pp. 147-60, particularly pp. 155-6; cf. also Johannes 
Friedrich, Geschichte der Indogermanischen Sprachwissenschaft, II, 5, p. 42. 
Nehring’s speculations about the Luvians {Studien zur Indogermanischen 
Kultur und XJrheimat^ p. 37) are inconclusive; his assertion that the earliest 
culture of Troy (c. 3000 B.C.) was certainly Indo-European Hoc. cit.) seems 
to be an unproved assumption. 

34. Sturtevant, A Comparative Grammar of the Hittite Language, p. 29. 

35. Kulturgeschichte des Alten Orients, dritter Abschnitt, erste Lieferung, 1933, 
p. 76. 

36. Schachermeyr, too, admits that the Hittites probably entered Asia Minor about 
2000 B.C. (HirUFestschrift, Vol. I, p. 234). 

37. Kulturgeschichte des Alten Orients dritter Abschnitt, erste Lieferung, p. 48. 

38. Schachermeyr, Hirt-Festschrift, Vol. I, p. 235. 

39. Reich und Kultur der Chetiter, p. 234. 

40. For a pretty complete survey of the problems connected with Tocharian, see 
Schwentner, Geschichte der indogermanischen Sprachwissenschaft, zweiter 
Teil, funfter Band, Lieferung 2, Leipzig, 1935. 

41. See HirUFestschHft, Vol. II, pp. 227-40. 

42. Die Indogermanen, Vol. I, p. 183. 

43. The split is caused by the difference in the treatment of certain k and g 
sounds. Certain dialects keep these sounds but others change them into 
sibilants. 

44. The theories associated with the names of Schleicher and Schmidt will be found 
explained in many texti-books« and need not be discussed here. 

45. So also Hirt, Die Indogermanes, Vol I, p. 125. Niederle most emphatically 
asserts that die Lithuanians are still living in their original home on the Baltic 
(Manuel de V Antiquiti Slave, Tome I: Historia, p. 13). 

218 



THE ARYAN PROBLEM 


46. Op. cit.f p. 121. ^ 

47. Bronze Age Greece, p. 288. 

48. Op. cit., p. 249. Some scholars, however, still maintain that the Mycenaeans 
were identical with the Achaians and therefore spoke Greek. 

49. It is important to remember that the Akaivasha (=: Achaians?) are mentioned 
for the first time in 1229 B.C. in the Egyptian records, and the Danauna 
(—Horn. Danaians?) in 1192 B.C. (see Gordon Childe, The Aryans, pp. 72-73). 
Meillet seems to have considered the Akaivasha of the Egyptians, the Aljhijava 
of the Hittite texts, the Achaifv )oi of Homer and the Achivi of the Latins 
to have been one and the same people (Aperqu d*une Histoire de la Langue 
Grecque, third edition, 1930, p. 57). Cf. also Schwyzer, Griechische Grammatik 
Vol. I, p. 46. 

50. Practically all that can be said in favour of a Germanic home will be found in 
the two volumes of the Hirt- Festschrift, Heidelberg, 1936. 

51. Origines Aricae, p. 5. 

52. It is curious to note that both Penka (Op. cit., p. 56) and Tilak (see his Arctic 
Home in the Vedas), independently of each other, arrived at the conclusion 
that the original home of the Aryans was situated in the polar region. Penka 
depended on the evidence of Odyssey X, 81-6, where short nights are spoken 
of. In the Vedic literature there are indeed passages which may suggest that 
the Vedic Aryans actually knew of the never-setting polar sun. For instance, 
Aitareya Brdhrnana, III. 4.6: savd esha na kaddehana 'slam eti no 'deti, etc. 
But it is quite clear that the author of the Aitareya Brdhrnana is here only 
speaking of an astronomical discovery — remarkable for the age — that the sun 
actually does not “rise” or “set.” 

53. The racists apart, whose chief preoccupation is to try to prove that the Indo- 
Europeans were of Nordic stock. 

54. Much, Die Heimat der Indogemunien im Lichte der urgeschichtlichen Fors- 
chxLiig, second edition, 1904. 

55. Gordon Childe, Wiener Beitrdge Zur Kxilturgeschichte und Liuguistik, Jahrgang 
IV, Die Indogermanen und Germanenfrage, 1936, p. 526. 

56. Hirt-Festschrift, Vol. I, pp. 19, 24, 37. Rosenberg, Kulturstrdmungen in Europa 
zur Steinzeit, Kopenhagen, 1931, pp. II ff. 

57. So Nehring, Studien zxir indogermanischen Kultur mid Urheimat, pp. 27, 59-61. 

58. Ursp)'ung der Gerniancn, p. 120. 

59. GermancnUim und Alteuropa, p. 166. 

60. Suhstratth>eorie und Urheimat der Indogeramanen. Mitteilungen der Anthropolo- 
gischen. Gesellschaft, LXVI, 1936, pp. 69-91. 

61. Quotation by Pitlioni, Wiener Beitrdge zur Kulturgeschichte und Linguistik, 
Jahrgang IV, 1936, p. 531. 

62. CHI, I, 66. 

63. “Isogloss” means “a linguistic innovation common to two or more groups of the 
same family of languages.” 

64. Mahabhashya ad Panini 11, 2.6: gaurah hichifachdrah kapilah pingalakesa ity 
zzen&nz=:api ahhyantar&n brdhmanye gwMn kurvanti, 

65. Die erste indogermanische Wandeming, Wien, 1936. Brandenstein’s ingenious 
theory of an early Indo-European home in the Kirghiz steppe and a later Indo- 
European home ill eastern Poland has not been accepted by Nehring {Studien 
zur Indogermanischen Kultur und Urheimat, p. 28, fn.) who has promised 
(loc. cit.) to give his rca.sons for rejecting Brandenstein’s theory in a future 
pubiicauoii, 

66. Hirt, Die Indogermanen, Vol. I, p. 72; Nehring, Studien zur indogermanischen 
Kultur und Urheimat, pp. 21-2. 

67. HirUFesischrift, Vol. I, p. 124. 

68. KZ, Vol. XUI, pp. 175-9. 

69. V ergleichendes indogermanisch-semitisches Worterbuch, pp. xiii f. 

70. See Albert Schotit, Hirt-Festschrift, Vol. II, pp. 93-4. 

71. Vergleichendes indogennanisch^^semitisches Worterbuch, p. xvi. 

72. Sprachvergleichung und Urgeschichte, second edition, Jena 1890; Reallexikon 
der Indogermanischen Altertumskunde, second edition by Nehring in two vols, 
Berlin and Leipzig, 1917-1929. 

73. So Giles, CHI, I, 68. It is difficult to find a single positive argument in favour 
of Giles’ Hungarian home theory. 

74. According to Bartholomae (Indogermanische Forschungen, Vol. IX, p. 271) this 
Kurdisl> word may be connected with **beech.'* 

219 



THE VEDIC AGE 

APPENDIX* 

# 

The theory of the indigenous origin of the Aryans has been 
advocated by a number of scholars. MM. Ganganath Jha has tried 
to prove that the original home was the Brahmarshi-desa.2 D. S. 
Triveda suggests that the original home of the Aryans was in the 
region of the river Devika in Multan.^ L. D. Kalla advocates the 
claims of Kashmir and the Himalayan region.'* The various argu- 
ments in favour of this view may be summed up as follows: 

1. There is no evidence to show that the Vedic Aryans were 
foreigners or that they migrated into India within traditional me- 
mory. Sufficient literary materials are available to indicate with 
some degree of certainty, that the Vedic Aryans themselves regarded 
Sapta-Sindhu as their original home (devakfita-yoni or devanirmita- 
deia). 

Migrating races look back to the land of their origin for cen- 
turies. The Parsis in India remember their origin after eight hundred 
years. The ancient Egyptians and the Phoenicians remembered their 
respective lands of origin even though they had forgotten their 
location. The Vedic Aryans, if at all they came from outside, there- 
fore, must have lived in Sapta-Sindhu so many centuries before the 
Vedic period that they had lost all memory of an original home.® 

2. The linguistic affinities are not positive proofs of Aryan 
immigration. The Vedic Sanskrit has the largest number of vocables 
found in the Aryan languages. These are preserved in the lan- 
guages of the Sanskritic family in different parts of India even 
when there has been inter-racial contact for centuries. On the 
other hand, if the pre-Vedic Aryan language was spoken in different 
parts of Europe and Asia where the Aryans had settled before coming 
to India, how is it that only a few vocables are left in the present- 
day speech of those parts, while the largest number of them is 
found in the distant places of ultimate settlement and racial ad- 
mixture in India? On the contrary this disparity can easily be 
explained if the pre-Vedic was the language of the homeland of 
Aryans and the other Aryan languages came into existence as a 
result of the contact between migrating Aryans and non-Aryan 
elements outside India and Persia.® 

3. The Vedic literature is the earliest extant record of the 
Aryan mind. How is it that in the course of their journey to the 
Sapta-Sindhu the Aryans left no such record elsewhere? This absence 
of literary records in other countries cannot be explained away by a 
hypothesis that the Aryans only reached a high stage of cultural evolu 
tion in India. But we can satisfactorily explain it if we suppose that 
the Aryans migrated from India, and the migration being only of the 
superfluous population of roving tribes without great cultural 
development, they could not impart the literary and cultural 
tradition to the counties in which they ultimately settled?^ 

220 



THE ARYAN PROBLEM 


4. The sacrificial rituals had long been established before the 
compliation of the Saihhita. Therefore the home of Soma, the Muja- 
vant or Munjavant hills in the north of the Punjab, indicates the 
locality from which the sacrificial rituals developed.® 

5. It is often argued that Lithuanian being the most archaic 
in the Aryan family of languages, Lithuania is likely to be the ori- 
ginal home of the Aryans. But a language remains archaic even 
when the persons using it are unprogressive; or if they remain in a 
locality where no fusion is possible with races speaking other lan- 
guages; or if they develop a highly refined technique for preserving 
and using archaic forms. The first two conditions are probably res- 
ponsible for the archaic character of Lithuanian,^ 

6. It is argued that the tiger, a native of the Bengal swamps, 
is not mentioned in the Rigveda, but the place of honour is given 
to the lion. Similarly the elephant, mentioned as the mrigahastin, 
shows that it was a novelty.^^ These arguments do not carry much 
weight in view of the fact that the Harappa civilization of the Indus 
Valley shows little trace of the lion (supposed to be common in the 
desert of Rajputana) but is fully conversant with the worship of 
the tiger and the elephant as indicated by the seals. If in about 
3000 B.C. the elephant and the tiger were so well known in the 
Punjab, it is absurd to suppose that they disappeared so completely 
as not to be mentioned in the Rigveda in c. 1500 B.C. The word 
mrigd-hastin is merely a poetic term and does not imply novelty. 
In the same way the word parvatagiri, used for a mountain in the 
same Rigiwda, clearly does not mean that mountains were strange 
to the Vedic peoples. Again it is said that rice is not mentioned in 
the Rigveda. Even so, salt is never mentioned in the Riqveda. 
Can we conclude that the consumption of salt was unknown in the 
Rigvedic times? Rice seems to have been unknown in the Harappa 
civilization also. This only proves that yava (barley) and wheat 
were the staple cereals of North-West India. 

7. The geographical data of the Rtgt>eda^ as analysed in Ch. 
Xni, clearly show that the Punjab and the neighbouring regions 
constituted the home of the people who composed these hymns. 
There is no good ground for the belief that they or their ancestors 
lived in any other country. 


1. This Appendix is based on a loni^ note on the subiect nrenared bv Prof. S. 
Srikanta Snstri and most of the arguments are advanced by Mr. K. M. Miinshi 
in Glory that was Gnrjaradasa, T, Section IT. 

2. Achdrya Pnshpdnjali (rrD. R. Bhandarkar Comm. Vol.), pp. 1-2. 

3. ABORl XX, 48 ff. 

4. POC, VI, 723-4. 

5. Munshi, op. cit., 46, 

6. Ibid., 81. 

7. Ibid,] 82. 

8. Cf. KHDS, II, Part I, pp. 11 -IG. 

9. Munshi, op. cit.. 83. 

10. CHI, I, 81. 


721 



CHAPTER XI 


INDO-IRANIAN RELATIONS 

It has been shown in the preceding chapter that t he und ivided 
Indo-Iranians, as suggested by their already specifically characte- 
terized Satem dialect, must have left their original Indo-European 
home after the Hittites and the proto-Tocharians, but be- 
fore any, other Indo-European tribe. After some wanderings they 
settled down in what may be called the Indo-Iranian original home 
which was situated in the Pamir region (Eduard Meyer) or more 
probably in the plains of the Oxus and Jaxartes (Ernst Herzfeld). 
The latter says: “From time immemorial, at least from the third 
millennium down to the middle of the second, the Aryans inhabited, 
as an undivided ethnical group, the vast plains of the Oxus and 
Jaxartes, the land Erdnvej of the two rivers VahvT-Datiya and 
Ranha.”^ It is also quite clear that the Aryan principalities appear- 
ing about 1400 R.C. in Mesopotamia and Syria were “the success- 
ful creation of a group of condottieri and their troops who had de- 
tached themselves from the main body, while the wandering tribes 
passed through eastern Iran towards India.’’^ 

The undivided Indo-Iranians must have passed a long time in 
their Central Asian common home, for here grew up a specific Indo- 
Iranian culture and religion that may be reconstructed, at least 
partially, by comparing the Veda with the Avesta. Before the 
occupation of the Iranian plateau by tribes from the Indo-Iranian 
original home, the high land, to all appearance, was the seat of a 
culture that was probably matriarchal, and the people worshipped 
snake-gods like the primitive non-Aryans of India. It is very pro- 
bable, therefore, that the pre-Aryan cultures of North-West India 
and Iran were of the same spirit and origin.'^ 

This old cultural link between pre- Aryan Iran and pre-Aryan 
India, instead of being strengthened as a result of the migration of 
the Aryans into these two countries, as could be normally expected, 
was to all appearance completely severed, for there is nothing to 
show that the Vedic Aryans of India maintained an active cultural 
relation with their brethren in Iran. 

In the earliest days the Aryans of India must have been con- 
nected with the Aryans of Iran, either as friends or as foes, but 
“actual historical contact cannot be asserted with any degree of 
probability.”^ The two peoples turned their backs upon each other as 
it were, and developed their distinctive civilizations apparently with- 
out the least mutual influence, although in language,® culture and re- 
ligion their similarity in the earliest period was little short of identity. 

222 , ..V, 



INDO-IRANIAN RELATIONS 

When later in history,® under the Achaemenids, Greeks, Bactrians, 
and Sakas, the Iranians and the Indians were forced to meet as 
citizens of the same empire, they met as complete strangers, not 
as cousins of the same family. 

Geographical barriers are no doubt to some extent responsible 
for this apparent mutual oblivion, as also the fact that from the 
Indo-Iranian common home the pre-Indians and the pre-Iranians 
expanded in two almost opposite directions. All this, however, 
cannot explain the complete cessation of cultural contact between 
Iran and India even as early as the Rigvedic age. The Iranians 
had retained a distinct memory of the Indo-Iranian common hpme 
(Eranvej) in their mythology, but the Indo-x\ryans, who must have 
developed their distinctively Indian Rigvedic culture about 1500 
B.C. at the latest, have nothing to say on this point. It is indeed 
difficult to get away from the idea that the silence maintained by 
the earliest Vedic Indians on Iran and the Iranians was at least 
partly intentional, for some of the geographical names prove beyond 
doubt that the period of immigration had not been so long as to 
have completely obliterated all memory of the land they left be- 
hind. Thus the names Rasa, Sarasvatl and Bahlika. not to speak 
of others, must have been brought to India from Iran by the Aryans 
and applied to two Indian rivers and one Indian province."^ The 
reticence maintained by the Vedic Aryans about immigration from 
Indo-Irania was, therefore, at least partly intentional, for other- 
wise it would seem that those parts of the Rigiyeda in which possible 
or probable Iranian names occur, were composed already in Iran, as 
Hillebrandt actually suggested.® 

Incompatibility of some sort between the earliest Aryans of 
India and Iran has to be assumed to explain this camouflaged indif- 
ference, and it is also clear that this incompatibility' was the cause 
of their divergent movements from their common home and ulti- 
mately destroyed the cultural unity between Iran and India of the 
pre-Aryan days. Seeds of such incompatibility which later deve- 
loped into mutual hostility can be clearly seen already in the oldest 
Aryan religion and cult of these two countries. The primitive 
Indo-European religion recognized only nature-gods (sky, sun, wind, 
etc.) and a fire-cult.® But already the undivided Indo-Iranians 
knew a soma-cult beside the older fire-cult, and abstract deities''® 
beside the older nature-gods. Indo-Iranian society had therefore 
ceased to be culturally homogeneous even before the forefathers of 
the Indian and Iranian Aryans parted company, and it is hardly to 
be doubted that their parting was more the effect than the cause 
of the cultural contrast revealed in religion. The old Indo-European 
term *deivo (=: Indo-Iranian *daiva) was -apparently considered in- 
appropriate for the new abstract and ethical deities, and a new term, 
Asura, perhaps borrowed from a higher civilization,^ ** came to be 

223 



THE VEDIC AGE 


used as their designation. Varu^a was the chief of these ethical 
deities just as Indra was the chief of the older nature-gods. 

The fact that about 1400 B.C., in the well-loiown treaty-record 
discovered at Boghaz-koi, the Daiva-gods Indra and Nasatya appear 
side by side with the Asura-gods Varuna and Mitra, clearly sug- 
gests, as Christensen'’*^ has pointed out, that the antagonism bet- 
ween the worshippers of the Daiva-gods and the Asura-gods — which 
is the central feature of early Indo-Iranian history — had not yet 
broken out. But it was in full blast long before the advent of Zara- 
thustra whose Gathas should be dated about 1000 B.C. on linguistic 
grounds, as shown in the preceding chapter. 

The antagonism between the worshippers of the new gods and 
the old must have been^one of the main causes of the estrangement 
and subsequent secession of those Aryans who later conquered India, 
but their antagonism was not confined to the field of religion alone. 
Christensen^^ has suggested that the Asitra-religion was practised 
by the more cultured and steadier elements of the primitive Indo- 
Iranian society whose chief occupation was agriculture and cattle- 
breeding, while the older Daiva-religion continued to find favour 
with the more vigorous but less civilized portions of the people to 
whom the primitive predatory habits were more congenial: the 
former were content to remain behind in Iran, but the latter, urged 
by the spirit of adventure, advanced farther east and at last entered 
India. But all of those who remained behind were not Asu'ra- 
worshippers, nor all of those who braved the hardships of the for- 
ward march into India were adherents of the Daiva-religion. The 
Daiva-inscription of Xerxes, discovered in 1935, clearly shows 
that even so late as the fifth century B . C. Daiva-worship had to be 
forcibly suppressed within the Achaemenian empire. And in India 
we meet with the curious situation that in the oldest period all the 
great gods received the title Asura as a decorative epithet, though 
later it came to be used exclusively as a term of abuse. In innu- 
merable passages in the Brahmanas the Asuras have been represent- 
ed as superior to the Devas in the arts of civilized life, and both in 
Vedic^^ and Puranic tradition they are regarded as the elder bro- 
thers of the gods. They are as far above the ^Ddsas and Rdkshasas 
as the Devas themselves. 

All things considered, it seems difficult to deny that along with 
the great horde of Daiva-worshipping Aryans came to India also a 
culturally superior strong minority of Aswra-worshippers, whose 
cult and religion was slightly /lifferent from that of the former and 
who were for that reason ceaselessly cursed and condemned by the 
Vedic Aryans, more out of jealousy, it would seem, than out of 
contempt. For if the Vedic Aryans intentionally suppressed all 
reminiscence of the Indo-Iranian original home, as suggested above, 
would they not also have suppressed the memory of the Astira- 


224 



INDO-IRANIAN RELATIONS 


worshippers in the same way if they CQuld? But this they could not, 
because some Asiira- worshippers were physically present among them. 

The earliest Indo-Aryan society, too, like the earliest Indo- 
Iranian society, was therefore not quite homogeneous culturally. 
It was predominantly — but not exclusively — Daivic, while the con- 
temporary Iranian society was predominantly Asuric, After a 
period of conflict and adaptation there was peace which proved 
successful to the extent that even the foremost of the Daiua-gods, 
namely Indra, not only came to be regarded as an Asura in the 
oldest parts of the Rigveda^ but was also credited with possessing 
mdyd, which was a special property of the Asuras and probably 
signilied “magical power.” ‘ ^ It is hardly an accident that in Hindu 
mythology the architect of the gods is an Asura whose name is Maya: 
the rude Da iua- worshippers apparently regarded the superior arts 
and crafts of their rivals as achieved by magic. 

In spite of the Daiva-bias of the Indians and the Asuro-bias of 
the Iranians their culture and religion continued to be essentially 
the same till the advent of Zarathustra in Iran. Zarathustra's posi- 
tion is more or less analogous to that of the Buddha in India and 
Orpheus in Greece, both of whom protested effectively against the 
ceremonial slaughter of animals in the name of religion, but not by 
far so vehemently as Zarathustra.^^ In his Gathas Zarathustra 
condemns in bitter terms the orgiastic festivities at which the Daiva- 
worshippers, inebriated with Soma, offer bloody sacrifices to their 
gods, extinguishing amidst shouts of revelry the life of the innocent 
buU. '^ It is clear that the ritual practices against which Zara- 
thustra directed his homilies closely resembled those of the Vedas. 
A large niimber of common cult-words such as haoma {=zsoma)^ 
zaotar (^hotci), athravan (z=z atharvan), manthra (z=: mantra), 
yazata ^ajataj, yasna (— yajfiaj, dzuiti (:ndhuti), etc., and also 
tfie whole sacrificial cult, leave no doubt that Vedic and Avestan 
ritual ai'e of one and the same origin.^^ Evidently, the Zarathus- 
trian reform could not materially alter the essentially Vedic cha- 
racter of the Soma cult cherished in Iran from ages before his time. 

In the field of religion and mythology, however, Zarathustra 
was more successful. But here, too, the points of similarity are 
striking enough to prove previous identity. The ceremony of Upa- 
nayana is practically the same in the Veda and the Avesta, and in 
both the conventional number of gods is the same, namely thirty- 
three. Both in the Veda and the Avesta the picture of the gods 
is primarily that of an heroic Aryan warrior riding in a chariot 
drawn by powerful steeds. Like the Vedic gods those of the 
Avesta too hold up the sky to prevent its falling down, and image- 
worship is equally unknown in the Avesta and the Veda. Varuija, 
like his Avestan opposite number Ahura, assisted by Mitra (Aves- 
tan Mithra), is the supreme guardian of moral law, and the concep- 

225 



THE VEDIC AGE 


tion of cosmic order is repreyented in both by the same abstract 
deny, the Vedic ftiia =: Avestan Asa.^^ Even the notorious dis- 
crepancy between the Vedic and Avestan Indra will disappear if 
the history of this god, as reconstructed by Benveniste and Renou,^^ 
is kept in view. Their ingenious theory may be summarized as 
follows: In the Indo-Iranian epoch there were two different gods, 
Indra^s and Vfitrahan (vritra = resistance, vritrahan resistance- 
breaker). Indra was nothing but a concrete personalization of mere 
physical prowess, known in the legends of most primitive civilizations, 
but he was too Daivic to suit the taste of the stern reformer Zarathus- 
tra who did not hesitate to send him to Hades. But the Lord 
Resistance-breaker, i.e. Vrioragna, whose function it was to break 
the resistance put up by evil, continued his glorious career within 
the Iranian pantheon. Indra and Vritrahan were united in the 
same person only later in the Vedic age. In short, Vedic Indra is 
the Indo-Iranian Indra (mentioned at Boghaz-koi) pliis Vritrahan, 
whereas Avestan Indra is the Indo-Iranian Indra minus Vritrahan. 
There is no discrepancy, therefore, between Vedic Indra and Aves- 
tan Indra if it is remembered that the history of Indra is in reality 
the history of two different gods who influenced each other in two 
different ways in Iran and India. 

The Nasatyas who in the Boghaz-koi inscription are mentioned 
side by side with Indra and Varuna also appear in the Avesta, 
though as a demon^^ like Indra, and even the minor Vedic god 
Apaih-napat is represented in the Avesta by a god of the same name. 
To the Vedic Gandharva corresponds the Avestan Gandarowa, and 
to the Vedic Kri^nu the Avestan Korosani.^ In the Veda, Yama, 
the son of Vivasvat, is the ruler of the dead, in^the Avesta, Yima, 
the son of Vivanhant, is the ruler of paradise.^^, Examples can be 
multiplied to show that in spite of the Zaratfiustrian reform, the 
Iranian religion continued to be much the same as before. On the 
whole it seems that Zarathustra’s reform was not so much a break 
with the past as a determined and partly successful effort to re- 
assert the principles of the old Asura religion by ridding it of all 
Daivic contaminations.^^ This is suggested pointedly by the curi- 
ous fact that not content with consigning to Hades the prominent 
Daiva-gods like Indra, he changed the name also of the chief Asura- 
god Varuna into Ahura Mazdah.^® That Zarathustra dropped the 
name while retaining and raising to the highest honour the persona- 
lity of this god is apparently because in the previous age — at the 
time of the Boghaz-koi tablets at any rate — he had lived in the 
corrupt company of the Daiua-god Indra. For a similar reason 
Zarathustra avoided the word Baga ‘‘god'’ of Indo-European origin, 
though it occurs in the pr^-Zarathustrian parts of the Avesta and 
in the Old Persian inscriptions, for an Indo-European word of 
religious connotation could not but have Daivic associations. 

226 



INDO-IR'ANIAN RELATIONS 


So long as it was believed that tjie Gathas, because oldest in 
lan^age, give also the oldest picture of the Aryan civilization of 
Iran, it was by no means possible to see that the society described 
in the Veda and the Avesta is essentially the same. ^But it has now 
been fully established that the civilization of the Gathas is a later 
reformed civilization of Ii*an, of which a much older phase is re- 
flected in the Yasts, particularly the so-called heathenish Yast^l i.e, 
the Yasts which have suffered least from Zarathustrian revision.^^ 
And the culture reflected in these pre-Zarathustrian heathenish 
Yasts is essentially that of Vedic India, ^he very Haoma-cult, which 
is rightly regarded as the chief indicator of Indo-Iranian cultural 
unity, is not only pre-Zarathustrian but definitely anti-Zarathus- 
trian, and could be retained in the post-Zarathustrian religion of 
Iran only because the prophet — clearly out of policy — did not speci- 
fically mention Soma in prohibiting intoxicating drinks: from this 
omission it was argued by Avestan theologians that all other intoxi- 
cants are impure, but not Haoma.^'^^ Benveniste has demonstrated 
that the Persian religion of the Achaemenian age, as described by 
Herodotus, agrees not at all well with that of the Gathas, but shows 
significant points of similarit3^ with the Vedic religion.'^^ 

The notorious difference in burial customs between Iran and 
India entirely vanishes on scrutiny. The custom of exposing dead 
bodies in dakmas, which is unknown in India, was not of Persian 
origin, but a Median custom confined to the Magi. It became the 
customary funeral rite of Iran only in the Arsacidan age, and is men- 
tioned for the first lime in the Videvdat, a product of the Arsacidan 
period. The Achaemenian monarchs, whose Zarathustrianism can- 
not be seriously doubted, were placed in elaborate grave-chambers 
after death, and it is nowhere recorded that the corpse of any one 
of those mighty emperors had been thrown to birds and beasts. 

^The ancient Ar^^an culture of Tran was thus hardly distin- 
guishable from the ancient Aryan culture of India. And that is as 
it should be, fo^ both were derived from one and the same Indo- 
Iranian culture. 

1. Jrvctn the Avcicnt East, 1941, p. 190. 

2. Op. ctf., p. 192. 

3. Op. cit., pp. II, 177, 

4. Ved, lnd„ I, p. 505, 

5. linguistic affinity between the earliest Aryans of India and Iran has been dis- 
cussed by the present writer in Linguistic Introduction to Sa7iskrit, pp. 26-47 
and JC, VII, pp. 343-59. 

6. For the history of later Indo-Iranian relations see CHI, I, pp. 323 ff. 

7. See Vedic bidex under these three names. Zimmer was even of opinion that 
Vedic Rasa directly refers to Iranian Ranha, i e. Jaxartes (AL, p. 16). 

8. Ved. Myth., first ed., Vol. I, pp. 99 ff.; Vol. Ill, pp. 372-8. Older attempts to 
read Iranian history and geography in the Veda have been briefly dealt with 
by Jackson in CHI, Vol. I, pp, 322 ff,, and mofe recently by Keith in Woolner 
Comm. Vol. (1940). 

9. Cf. the fires of the Prytaneia in Greece, Vestal fire of Rome, Garhapatya tire 
of India (Keith, HPVU, II, pp. 625-6). 

227 



THE VEDIC AGE 


10. Like Vedic JRita = Av. Asa (to f>e pronounced arra, from arta). 

11. As I have suggested elsewhere (IC, VII, p. 339), this term is probably nothing 
but the personal designation of the tutelary deity of Assyria used as a generic 
name by the Indo-Iranians who must have come in direct or indirect contact 
witli the Assyrians during the period of Kassite ascendancy, for the Kassites 
on the one hand borrowed from the Indo-Iranians the word siirya and on the 
other conquered Assyria, Cf. Thomas, JRAS, 1916, pp. 362-6. 

12. Varuna was originally a nature- god no doubt, since the equation Skt. Varwna— 
Gr. duranos has to be accepted (see Keith, IC, III, p. 421). Yet the natural 
basis of this god had been usurped by Dyaus pita — Zeus pater already in 
Indo-European times, and as a result he became a pronounced ethical god. 
Varuna’s associate Mitra, too, was originally a nature-deity — a sun-god — as I 
have tried to show before (IC, III, p. 63), but he too had to lose his natural 
basis to the more powerful Surya. 

13. Kulturgeschichte des Alten Orients, p. 211. 

14. Op. cit., pp. 211-12. 

15. See Sukumar Sen, Old Persian Inscriptions, pp. 148-56. 

16. See Keith, RPVU, II, p. 457. 

17. See IC, VII, pp. 61-62. Benveniste has shown that the conception of Mdy&, by 
means of which Ilidra and his Iranian opposite number Vri^ragna could assume 
different forms at will, dates from the Indo- Iranian epoch (Vrtra et VrQragnat 
pp. 32 ff., 194). 

18. Iranian tradition would make Zarathustra more or less a contemporary of 
Buddha and Orpheus (if, as is generally thought, they were historical persons), 
but according to Eduard Meyer (Geschichte des Altertums, second edition, third 
volume, p. 110, fn. 3) it is an inexplicable thing that anybody should think so. 
That Eduard Meyer was right can be hardly doubted, although weighty opinions 
have been raised against his view. The mention by Assurbanipal about 700 B.C. 
of Assara Mazas along with seven good angels and seven bad spirits is a clear 
indication of acquaintance witli the reformed Zarathustrian pantheon (see 
CHI, I, p. 76). It is impossible therefore to suggest that the Kavi Vistaspa men- 
tioned in the Avesta as the patron of the prophet was no other than the father 
of Darius I (522-486 B.C.), for in tliat case the Zarathustrian pantheon could 
not have been known in Assyria in the days of Assurbanipal. 

19. See Christensen, op. cit., p. 220. 

20. See Hillebrandt, Rituallitteratur, § 2. 

21. See footnote 10. 

22. In Vrtra et Vr$ragna, Paris, 1934. 

23. The name of this god is to be derived from Hittite innar — ‘‘strength.” 

24. Avestan Naonhaithya, to be pronounced Nbhaithya. 

25. To be pronounced Krisani. 

26. See Macdonell, VM, § 5. 

27. I expressed a different view in IC, VII, p. 338. 

28. Darmesteter has aptly said that Ahura Mazdah is no more different from Varuna 
than Zeus is from Jupiter (SBE, IV, p. lii). 

29. See Heradeld, Altpersische Inschriften., p. 106. 

30. See Christensen, op. cit., pp. 214 ff. 

31. Op. cit., p. 229. „ 

32. The Persian Religion, Ratanbai Katrak Lectures, Paris 1929, pp. 32 ff. 

33. See Herzfeld, Iran in the Ancient East, 1941, pp. 216-17. 


228 



CHAPTER XII 


VEDIC LlIERATURE-GENERAL VIEW 

Our knowledge of the Indo-Aryans is based on the evidence of 
Vedic literature, of which the chief constituents are the four collec- 
tions known as the ^igveda, Samaveda, Yajurveda, and Atharva- 
veda. Not a single work of the Vedic period can be accurately 
dated. On linguistic grounds the language of the Rigveda, the 
oldest Veda, may be said to be of about 1000 B.C.,’ but its contents 
may be — and certainly are in the oldest parts — of much more an- 
cient date, and its latest parts, resembling Atharvanic charms, are 
as surely of much later origin. This Rigveda is neither an historical 
nor an heroic poem, but mainly a collection (samhitd) of hymns by a 
number of priestly families, recited or chanted by them with appro- 
priate solemnity at sacrifices to the gods. Naturally it is poor in 
historical data. The Saviaveda hardly counts at all as an independ- 
ent text (see below). The Sariihitas of the Yajurveda, if the Brah- 
maoa portions of the schools of the Black Yajurveda are left out of 
account, are nothing but collections of short magic spells used by a 
certain class of priests at the sacrifices. For the history of the 
Indian people of the Vedic age the Atharvaveda is certainly the 
most important and interesting of the four Saxhhitas, describing, 
as it does, the popular beliefs and superstitions of the humble folk, 
as yet only partly subjugated by Brahmanism. 

Next to the Saiirhitas are the Brahmanas, an arid desert of 
puerile speculations on ritual ceremonies. They mark the lowest 
ebb of Vedic culture. The Upanishads were at least partially the 
result of a popular protest against the soulless ritualism of the 
Brahmanas, as was also the rise of sects like the Vaishnavas, Jainas, 
Buddhists, etc. In the Sutras Brahn^anical orthodoxy fought and 
lost its last battle against these forces of religieus liberalism before 
merging itself in the synthetic national religion of India in the pre- 
Muhammadan era, i.e. Hinduism. A brief survey of the Samhitas, 
Bramajjas, and the Srauta-sutras‘‘’ is given here to indicate the 
nature and extent of these texts, reserving for later chapters their 
linguistic and literary valuation. 

I. THE SAMHITAS 

I. Rigveda 

Of the various recensions of the Rigveda known in tradition 
only one, namely the 6akala recension, consisting of 1,017 hymns 
of very unequal length, has come down to us apparently complete, 
and it is this Sakala recension that is meant when one speaks of the 

229 

V. V.— 15 



THE VEDIC AGE 


'^Rigvedn,'^ though we have parts of two other recensions of the 
Rigveda, namely the Valakhilya (11 hymns, usually placed in the 
middle of the eighth Mandala of the iSakala recension) and the Bash- 
kala (36 hymns in the Aundh edition of the Rigveda^ the so-called 
Khila-suktas, most of which are evidently spurious fabrications, 
inserted at various places in the Sakala text). Why fragments — 
and only these fragments — of the Valakhilya and Bashkala recen- 
sions have been handed down to us is quite clear: they had definite, 
though minor, roles to play in the ritual (as proved by later ritual 
texts in the case of some of them), and therefore had to be pre- 
served.^ Originally the ritual varied not only from school to school 
but also from family to family,^® but later in the Rigvedic age a 
system of ritual with minor variations, generally recognized by all 
the principal schools and priestly families, had been built up, for 
which the texts collected in the Sakala school were accepted en 
bloc, but in which there always remained not a few loop-holes pro* 
vided by the continually expanding ritual, and these loop-holes 
had to be stopped with Rik-mantras drawn sometimes from other 
recensions. 

Now, if the existing fragments of the non-Sakala recensions of 
the Rik-Snmhitd owe their survival apparently only to the fact that 
they were utilized in ritual by priests of the Sakala school- — and 
indeed no other plausible reason can be suggested for the anoma- 
lous survival of these non-Sakala Rik-texts — then the important 
question arises: should not the preservation of the whole Sakala re- 
cension itself be attributed to the same cause? This question 
has doubtless to be answered in the affirmative.^ All the hymns 
accepted into the Samhita must have possessed intrinsic ritual signi- 
ficance at the time of their acceptance. 

Later, however, the ritual changed, and not a few of the hymns 
of the Saihhita in consequence lost their proper viniyoga, but not 
their position in the Samhita which had become sacrosanct and 
therefore unassailable.'^^ 

> The RigtJeda is not — as it is often represented to be — a book of 
folk poetry; nor does it mark the beginning of a literary tradition. 
Bucolic, heroic, and lyrical elements are not entirely absent, but 
they are sub-merged under a stupendous mass of dry and stereo- 
typed hymnology dating back to the Indo-Iranian era, and held as a 
close preserve by a number of priestly families whose sole object 
in cherishing those hymns was to utilize them in their sacrificial 
cult. Of natui^al outpourings of heart there is not much to bo 
found in the Rigveda, for the hymns were part of an elaborate ritual 
which gradually came to be regarded as capable not only of per- 
suading but also of compelling the gods to do the bidding of the 
officiating priests. This magico-religious attitude of mind found 

730 



VEDIC LITERATURE^ElSrERAL VIEW 

fullest expression later in the Min^axhsa-philosophy in which the 
gods were retained only in name and the ritual itself came to occupy 
the place of the gods. 

One hymn of three verses^ and three verses of three other 
hymns^ have not been divided in the Padapatha by 6akalya, who 
must have been dead when Yaska wrote^^ and therefore lived be- 
fore 600 B.C. This is important, for it shows that hymns and 
verses could have been added to the Rik-Samhitd even after the date 
of Sakalya, for it is clear that Sakalya would not have left the 
hymn and the verses in question undivided if they had formed an 
integral part of the Sarhhita in his time. The formation of the 
Rik-Snmhitd, as we know it today, had therefore not been quite 
complete even so late as the time of 6akalya. On the other hand, 
there is nothing to tell us when the task of collecting the hymns 
into a Samhita was started. 

Most of the hymns were not composed as such, but were mecha- 
nically manufactured out of fragments of a floating anonymous lite- 
rature,*' and the process of manufacturing hymns in this manner 
must have continued for a long time. The fact that there are Man- 
tras cited by Pratikas in the Brahmanas of the Rigveda which do not 
occur in our Saihhita clearly shows that at the time of these Brahma- 
lias recently adopted or freshly manufactured Rik-verses were con- 
sidered good enough for utilization in ritual, but were yet denied a 
place in the Sarhhita.^ It is impossible to imagine, however, any 
stage in the development of the Rik-Samhiid at which a demand 
for new Mantras was not present, for the ritual in which they were 
intended to be used was all the time growing in complexity and 
expanding in range — and therefore demanding new Mantras at 
every step.®^ There is indeed much to be said in favour of a ritual 
tradition advocated by Hillebrandt^ — which in his opinion was in- 
dependent of the literary tradition of the Rik-Samhitd known to us, 
and which contained hymns all of which need not have been in- 
cluded in the latter. 

There is at all events no doubt that the texts constituting the 
Puroruchas, Nividas, and Praishas for the ritual are of pre-Saiiihita 
date, and that the Praiiga-suktas, Apri-suktas, etc., were composed 
directly with an eye to application in ritual.^ ^ All things consider- 
ed, it seems best to conclude that the hymns constituting the Ri/c- 
Samhitd, though certainly not always composed or manufactured 
directly for the sacrificial ritual, yet owe their inclusion in the Sam- 
hita, which guaranteed their preservation, wholly to the fact that 
at some time or other the ritual oflfered^a place to each of them. 

The division of the whole Samhita into ten Mai^id^las, and the 
number and arrangement of hymns in these Maed^las, are not at all 
arbitrary. It is hardly an accident that the number of hymns contain- 

231 



THE VEDIC AGE 


ed in the first and the last Mandalas is exactly the same, namely one 
hundred and ninety-one. The kernel of the Rik-Samhitd is, how- 
ever, constituted by the so-called family-Mandalas, i.e. the six con- 
secutive Mai:idalas from the second to the seventh, each of which 
is supposed to have been composed by a particular family of priests. 
The hymns of these family -Maii^dalas are often composed of tristichs 
{trichas ) — evidently because in ritual, as a rule, groups of three 
verses, and not whole hymns or single verses, are used. The eighth 
Ma^dala is known as the Pragatha-mandala, for the verses in mixed 
metres known as Prag^has, indispensable for the Udgatri-rituai, are 
drawn mostly from this The ninth is most pronouncedly 

a ritual Mai^idala, for in it were collected all the hymns addressed to 
Soma Pavamana,^^ which were originally included in the other 
Maiidalas. The first Ma^d^la falls naturally into two parts: the first 
fifty hymns have the Karivas as authors like the eighth Mandala and 
are arranged according to principles obtaining in that Maijdala (see 
below), but the rest are arranged in the manner of the hymns of 
the family-Manqlalas. The tenth Mandala is manifestly a later ad- 
dition, often Atharvanic in character — yet not so late that the few 
Pavamana-hymns originally belonging to it could not be transfen'ed 
to the ninth Majjdala.^^ 

The principle governing the original arrangement of hymns in 
the family-Man<Jalas seems to have been determined by three con- 
siderations — deity, metre, and the number of verses contained in 
the hymns concerned.^ Each family-Maijdal^ opens with a group 
of hymns dedicated to Agni, immediately followed by another group 
addressed to Indra.'^ Then follow in each family-Mandala groups of 
hymns dedicated to various gods, the relative positions of these 
groups being determined on the whole in the descending order 
according to the number of hymns contained in each, or, when such 
groups contain each an equal number of hymns, in the descending 
order according to the number of verses contained in the first hymn 
of each group. It follows as a necessary corollary to this rule that 
if in a family-Mandala several deities have as their shares only one 
hymn each, then these single hymns should be put at the end of 
the Mandala and arranged in descending order according to the 
number of verses contained in each. Within each deity-group the 
order of hymns is determined chiefly by metre, again in the descend- 
ing order, the hymns in Jagati coming first and those in Gayatrl 
coming last. These are in brief the laws governing the arrange- 
ment of hymns in the family-Mandalas — laws re-discovered in our 
age by Bergaigne and endorsed by Oldenberg. ^ These laws can- 
not, of course, be rigorously applied to the text of the Rigveda as 
we find it today. Yet, when a re-division of the hymns is made on 
the plausible grounds suggested by Bergaigne and Oldenberg, it is 
found that exceptions to these laws are surprisingly few. And it 

237 



VEDIC LITERATURE-GENERAL VIEW 

leaves no doubt that the redactors the family-Maj><Jalas had in 
mind a comprehensive plan — the advantages of such a plan are ob- 
vious — according to which every single hymn in this large collection 
could occupy only one particular position and no other. . 

The plan of the eighth Man^ala is altogether different. Here 
the hymns are not arranged primarily according to the deities in- 
voked in them as in the family-Man<Jalas.'‘‘^ The principle followed 
seems rather to have been primarily to group together all the hymns 
of each individual author, and then to arrange the hyinns of each 
such group into sub-groups of hymns addressed to particular deities, 
and that in such a manner that the verse-numbers of the first hymns 
of these sub-groups would be in a descending order. This peculia- 
rity of the eighth Mandala. together with the f^ct that most of the 
hymns in Pragatha metres are found in it, does suggest — but by no 
means proves — that the eighth Manijala was subjoined at a later 
date to the kernel constituted by the family-Mandalas. ^ But there 
is positive reason to believe that there was a time when the eighth 
Mandala was actually considered to be the last in the Saihhita, for 
why else should the Valakhilya-hymns be thrust into the eighth Man- 
clala and not added after the tenth? Also the simple fact that the 
eighth Mandala is followed by the ninth strongly suggests the same 
thing, for since the latter consists almost exclusively of Pavamana- 
hymns combed out of the other Man(;lalas, it could have been consti- 
tuted as a separate collection only after them, and consequently after 
the eighth Mandala also. It should not be forgotten, however, that 
the ninth Mandala is of a comparatively later date only as a separate 
collection, but not in contents. Why it was considered necessary to 
assemble in a separate collection only the hymns addressed to Soma 
Pavam-ana and no other deity is perfectly clear, for while the h5mns 
addressed to other deities were primarily the concern of the Hotri- 
priests, those invoking Soma Pavamana were originally meant exclu- 
sively for the Udgatri-priests — who therefore should have taken the 
initiative in collecting the Pavamana-hymns in a separate book.''"" 
And since the Udgatri-priests were Saman-singers and not simply 
Mantra-reciters like the Hotri-priests, it is not to be wondered at if 
the hymns contained in the Udgatri-Mandala are arranged, as they 
actually are, according to metres, the chi^f concern of the redactors 
of this Mapdala having been apparently to group together hymns com- 
posed in the same metre. 

From the above survey it will be clear tliat all attempts to 
establish a relative chronology of the first nine Man<Jalas of the 
Rigveda cannot but be futile. That the tenth Marsala is later 
in origin than the first nine is, howevqr, perfectly certain from the 
evidence of the language.^o But it is also certain that the whole 
of the Rik-Samhrtd, including the tenth Man(^ala, had assumed prac- 

2.U 



THE VEDIC AGE 


tically the same form in which we find it today already before the 
other Sariihitas came into existence.^ ^ 

2/ Sdmaveda 

As regards the Sdmaveda^^ it is necessary always to keep in 
mind that the word sdman means “melody,” and that the Sama- 
Samhitd is nothing but a collection of melodies. Certain texts are, 
of course, included in what is known as Sdmaveda, but the role of 
these texts the Sdmaveda is altogether secondar^^ — in fact analo- 
gous to the part played by musical notes in music. The texts used 
as musical notes in this Veda are moreover almost wholly drawn 
from the Rik-Samhitd. According to the figures given in the Aundh 
edition of the Sdmaveda, of the 1,603 verses (not counting the re- 
petitions) of this Veda only 99 (again not counting the repetitions) 
are not found in the Rik-Samhitd,^^ The literary and historical 
value of the Sdmaveda is, therefore, practically nil, though its im- 
portance for the Soma-ritual cannot be overestimated. 

The text part of the Sdmaveda serving merely the purpose of 
musical notes, every melody could theoretically be chanted on 
every verse. Yet this freedom seems never to have been actually 
taken in the ritual. Rather the ritual demands that particular me- 
lodies should be chanted on particular verses. It is the double task 
of assigning particular melodies to particular verses and particular 
verses to particular melodies that has rendered so complex the 
Sdmaveda which is, needless to say, a purely ritual Samhita. The 
complexity of the whole system has become still more enhanced on 
account of the fact that, on the one hand, the same sdman can be 
chanted on different verses, and on the other, different sdmans can 
be chanted on the same verse. In the language of the ritual texts, 
the verse on which a sdman is chanted is called a Yoni, “source.” 
This suggestive term, used already in the Brahmat>as, clearly shows 
that it had become conventional in ancient India to regard the 
verse as the source of the melody, even though of text and melody 
one can never be the source of the other. The Sdmaveda proper, 
i.e. the Archika, is nothing but a collection of 585 Yonis. The Mr- 
varchika, together with the Aranyaka-Samhita and the Uttararchika, 
represents the text-part of the Sdmaveda, The Gramageyagana, the 
Araijyageyagana, the tJhagana and theUhyagana^’ together consti- 
tute its song-part. 

The Purvarchika records only verses (Yonis) to each of which 
corresponds a single sdman (melody) named after the seer who 
is supposed to have discovered it, and these sdmans corresponding 
to the verses of the Purvarchika are registered in the Gramage- 
yagana and the Aranyageyagana. The Yonis of the Purvarchika 
are divided into three parts: Nos. 1-114 are verses addressed to 
Agni; Nos. 115-466 to Indra; and Nos. 467-585 to Soma Pavamiana. 

234 



VEDIC LITERATURE— GENERAL VIEW 

The Uttararchika, on the other hand, records mostly tristichs 
(trictias) or distichs (pragdthas)^^ occasionally also complexes of 
more verses, but never single verses as in the Purvarchika. Now, 
generally the first verse of a Tricha of the Uttararchika- is found 
to occur among the single verses (Yonis) of the Purvarchika,^'^ 
and when such is the case it is to be understood that the melody 
belonging to that particular Yoni of the Purvarchika has to be 
chanted on the whole of the corresponding Tricha of the Uttarar- 
chika. In actual chant, however, no verse can retain%its original 
form. Therefore it is not sufficient merely to indicate which verse 
has to be chanted in which melody. It is necessary further to in- 
dicate what modifications a verse will have to undergo when chanted 
in a particular melody. To indicate the actual^ forms assumed in 
chant by the tristichs of the Uttararchika is the purpose of the 
Uhagana, which thus gives the melodies of the Gramageyagana in 
their final ritual form. The Uhyagana does the same for the melodies 
of the Aranyageyagana.^^' 

3. Yajurx'>eda 

The Ycijunyeda is, if possible, even more pronouncedly a ritual 
Veda, for it is essentially a guide-book^^ for the Adhvaryu-priests 
who had to do practically everything in the sacrifices excepting recit- 
ing the Mantras and chanting the melodies. And since variation 
is more natural in manual work than in recitation and chanting, 
we actually possess today — not merely in tradition as is mostly 
the case with the other Samhitas — no less than six complete recen- 
sions of the YajurvedOy of which two (Madhyandina and Kanva)^^® 
constitute the White Yajurveda, and the rest (Taittinya, Kathaka. 
MaitrayanI and Kapishthala) the Black Yajurveda.^ ^ 

The fact that the Gopatha-Brdhmaxia (I. 29) in citing the first 
words of the different Vedas quotes in the case of the Yajurveda 
the beginning of the Vdjasaneyi-Samhita^^ may suggest that the 
White Yajurveda represents the original tradition of which the 
Black Yajurveda with all its recensions is a later variation. But 
the truth should rather be just the opposite, for it is hardly possible 
that Mantra and Brahmana, kept separate as in the White Yajur- 
veda tradition, should have got mixed up at a later date. It is 
generally assumed, therefore, that the * Black Yajurveda. with 
Mantra and Brahmana mixed up throughout, is older than the White 
Yajurveda in which the Brahmana was separated from the Samhita. 
perhaps in imitation of the Rigvedic model. In the Taittiriya-Brdh- 
mana, too, which is merely a continuation of the Taittiriya-Samhitd 
(but not necessarily later than it for that reason), and which, too, 
owes its origin as a separate treatise to the influence of the Rigvedic 
tradition, 33 Mantra and Brahmai?a, have not been separated.^^ Tt 
is a peculiar feature of the Taittinya texts that the Samhita and the 

235 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Brahmapa of this school supplement each other in such a way that 
each seems to presuppose the other. 

The relative chronology of the extant versions of the Black 
Yajurveda has long been an interesting but unsolved problem.^^ 
Jpaliguage in this case fails to provide a dependable criterion, for, 
in spite of inevitable unimportant linguistic peculiarities of each, 
i^l of them may be said to speak in the same language.^® The treat- 
ment of the Rigvedic Mantras in the Saihhitas of the Black Yajur- 
veda is int^esting: the Kdthaka and the Maitrdyanl in this respect 
often agree with each other against the Rigt^eda and the Taittiriya,^^ 
which should indicate, if Oldenberg’s well-known theory is true that 
slavish conformity to Rigvedic text is a sign of comparative lateness 
of YajiiTveda-Sarnhiids,^^ that the Kathaka-Kapishthala-Maitrayai?! 
may have been older than the Taittiriya. As regards the Br^mana- 
parts of the Taittirlya^Samhitd, Keith^^ has shown that they are 
later than the older first five Panchikas of the Aitareya-Brdhmana 
and older than the Satapatha-Brdhmana, but anything more pre- 
cise about their relative or absolute date cannot be hazarded. 

If slavish conformity to the text-tradition of the Rigveda is 
indicative of comparative lateness, then the Samhitas of the White 
Yajurveda must be regarded as comparatively late, to judge them 
by the Rig\^edic verses quoted in them, as amply demonstrated by 
Oldenberg.'^*^ Moreover the Vdjasaneyi-Sarhhitd lacks that general 
uniformity and homogeneity which pervades not only the whole of 
the Taittinya-Samhitd but extends also to the Brahmana and the 
Aranyaka of the Taittiriya School. Of the forty odd Adhyayas of the 
VdjasaneyUSamhitd, it is quite evident that the last twenty- 
two were added later^ ^ gradually to a basic text consisting 
of the first eighteen. As a rule only the formulas found in the 
first eighteen Adhyayas occur also in the Taittirlya-Samhitd, while 
those of the last twenty-two are met with in the Taittirlya^Brdh^ 
mana,^^ The next three Adhyayas (XIX-XXI) give the Mantras 
of the Sautramani, a sacrifice performed to expiate the sin of ex- 
cessive indulgence in Soma, and the following four (XXII-XXV), 
those of the horse-sacrifice. The remaining fifteen Adhyayas 
(XXVI-XL) are expressly called Khila in the ancillary literature.^^ 

4. Atharvaveda 

The Atharvaveda is utterly different from the other three 
Vedas discussed above, for though an effort was made at a compa- 
ratively late date to absorb it within the sacred 6rauta-literature 
by furnishing it formally with a Srauta-sutra with the significant 
designation Vaitana-sutra,^ yet it was never accorded full recog- 
nition in the ritual of the •» Soma-cult, and to the last it remained 
essentially what it was from the start — a prayer-book of the simple 
folk, haunted by ghosts and exploited by Brahmins.^ ^ In its pre- 

236 



VEDIC LITERATURE— GENERAL VIEW 

sent form the Atharvaveda is certainly the latest of the four Saih- 
hitas, but in contents it is by no means so, for there can be no doubt 
that Bloomfield'*® was perfectly right in characterizing the Atharva- 
veda as follows: “On the whole the Atharvaveda is the bearer of o'ld 
tradition not only in the line of the popular charms; but also to sona® 
extent, albeit slight, its hieratic materials are likely to be the pro- 
duct of independent tradition that has eluded the collectors of the 
other Vedas, the Rigveda not excepted.” At the same time, how- 
ever, it is quite clear that the hymns and charms of the i^thorvaueda 
were collected in a Samhita and handed down to the present day 
only because the Brahmanical ritual gradually extended its sway 
over profane superstition, and by degrees granted a grudging re- 
cognition even to frankly magical incantations that were originally 
doubtless of non-Brahmanical inspiration. This Is proved strikingly 
by the Khila-hymns of the Atharvaveda, the so-called Kuntapa- 
suktas, of no particularly sacred character, which, as Bloomfield has 
amply demonstrated,*^ were nevertheless retained and handed 
down in tradition, apparently only because they were indispensable 
for a popular cult that had succeeded in wringing recognition from 
the circle of sacerdotes. 

The Samhita of the Atharvaveda is now before us in two recen- 
sions,* the Saunakiya recension,*® and the Paippalada recension.®® 
It is the ^aunaklya-Samhitd that is usually meant when the Atharva- 
veda is mentioned in ancient or modern literature. But the earliest 
references seem to have been to some other (probably Paippalada) 
recension. Patanjali’s statement on Papini V. 2.37 to the effect that 
the text of the Ahgirases consists of twenty chapters may 
apply to both the recensions, since each consists of twenty Kandas, 
but the initial verse of the Atharvaveda as quoted by Patanjali 
and also in the Gopatha-Brdhmana is not the opening verse of the 
Saunaklya recension,®’ but of the Paippalada text. ^ 

Of the twenty Kan^^s of the Atharvaveda,'^ the last one 
is manifestly a later addition manufactured almost wholly out of 
borrowings from the Rigveda to serve as a manual for the priest 
called Brahmapachchhamsin who had a definite, though minor, 
role to play at the Soma-sacrifice.®* Moreover the Kuntapa-suktas 
of this Kanda are without any Padapatha, and nothing parallel to 
them can be found in the Paippalada recension — showing that they 
had been given a place in this late Kanda of the Samhita at a very 
late date. In fact, the nineteenth Kapd& ends with a significant 
prayer which strongly suggests that the Sathhita at one time was 
considered to end with it. But there are reasons to believe that 
the nineteenth Kapda itself is a late compilation, for its hymns, 
though found in the Paippalada recension, are scattered throughout 
that text. Both the nineteenth and the twentieth Kapdas have been 
ignored in the Pratii^khya of the Atharvaveda. The eighteenth 

237 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Kaiida, consisting of four funeral hymns, should also be regarded 
as a later addition, for its contents are absent in the Paippalada-re- 
cension. The seventeenth Kanda, consisting of only one hymn of 
purely magical contents, is a curious anomaly, and must be regarded 
^s a late accretion, though partly appearing also in the Paippalada 
text. The most interesting of all the is the fifteenth, com- 

posed not in verse but in typical Brahmana prose, and devoted to 
the mystic exaltation of the Vratya. Probably this Vratya-kanda 
was the firs;| of the additions successively made to the original text 
of the Atharvaveda which has come down to us in two recensions. 
There is no reason to doubt the antiquity and authenticity of the 
other Kandas of the Atharvaveda. 

2. THE BRAHMANAS 

The Brahmanas are, if possible, ritual texts of an even more 
pronounced type than the Saihhitas, for though the hymns and 
charms of at least the Rigveda and the Atharvaveda need not all 
have been of ritual origin, there is no room for any doubt in the 
case of the Brahmanas that the sole object of their authors was to 
speculate on and mystify, but hardly to explain, minute details of 
Brahmanical sacrifices. The duties of the Hotri-priests, who 
had to recite the Mantras of the Rigveda at the sacrifices, 
have been luxuriantly speculated upon and mystified by the 
authors of the Brahmanas of the Rigveda^ those of the Udgatri- 
iDiiests in the Brahmanas of the Sdmaveda, etc. All that is found in 
the Brahmanas that is not directly concerned with ritual is, strictly 
speaking, irrelevant and unnecessary from the view-point of their 
authors. 

The Aitareya and the Kaushitaki (or Sdrtkhdyana) are the Brah« 
manas of the Rigveda, and of them the former is older in date and 
bigger in bulk, but the latter is richer in contents. But the Aitareya 
itself is plainly a composite work, its first five Pahchikas being older 
than the last three. Similarly, only two Brahmanas of the Sdma- 
veda have been preserved, namely the Jaiminlya^ and the Tdndya- 
mahd-Brdhmana^ the latter also known as the Panchavimsa-Brdhrnana 
on account of its twentyfive chapters, to which a supplementary 
chapter was added that somehow came to be regarded as an indepen- 
dent treatise with the singular designation '^Shadvirhsa-Brdhmana.'' 
The Jaiminlya-Brdhrnana is indeed one of the most interesting works 
of the later Vedic literature, and rivals in importance the Satapatha- 
Brdhmana^^ of the Yajurveda, for in elucidation of the details of 
ritual the authors of these two Brahmanas have introduced nume- 
rous stories, mostly of an aetiological character, which neverthe- 
less throw welcome light on social conditions. Regarding the re- 
lation between the two recensions of the Satapatha-Brdhman^, 
namely Madhya ndina and Kanva, Caland has expressed the opinion 

238 



VEDIC LITERATURE— GENERAL VIEW 

that both existed from the very begin^iing, but later the Kanva-recen- 
sion was influenced by the other.^^ 

It is also clear at the same time that neither the Madhyandina 
nor the Kanva recension of the jSatapatha^Brdhmana has be^n hand^ 
down to us in its original redaction, for quotations from the Satapatha 
in early literature are often missing in both the recensions. More- 
over, it is certain that the Brahmana in both its recensions is a com- 
posite work. For though Yajnavalkya Vajasaneya is the authority 
most frequently quoted in the Satapatha, yet in both the recensions 
there are five Kansas (Kmdas VI-X in Madhyandina corresponding 
to Kandas VIII-XII in Kanva) dealing with the construction of the 
fire-altar, in which the authority quoted is San^ilya and YajnavaDcya 
has not been mentioned at all. It remains still to mention only 
one of the more important Brahmanas, namely *the Gopatha-Brdh^ 
mana of the Atharvaveda, consisting mostly of slightly modified 
quotations (without acknowledgment) from other sources. It gives 
the impression of being so late that Bloomfield^® declared it to be 
more recent than even the Srauta-sutra (Vaitana) and the Grihya- 
sutra (Kausika) of the Atharvaveda. 

3 . THE 6RAUTA - SUTRAS 

Puerile speculation on the mimitiae of ritual, so much in evi* 
dence in the Brahmanas, developed in the direction of pure specula- 
tion in the Aranyakas and Upanishads. Winternitz®® has truly said 
that ‘‘it is often difficult to draw the line between the Aranyakas 
and the Upanishads.” Only it is necessary to remember that it is no 
less difficult to draw the line between the Brahmanas and the Aran- 
yakas. Among the Srauta-sutras, too, there Is at least one text 
namely the Baxidhdyana Srautasiltray v/hich it is difficult not to 
regard as a late Brahmana. Thus a fine line of demarcation between 
Brahmana, Arapyaka and Srauta-sutra is out of the question. Yet 
it would be correct to say that the speculative spirit developed in 
the Brahmanas in connection with ritual ceremonies tried to burst 
its irksome fetters in the Aranyakas, and in some of the Upanishads 
attained the stage of as complete an independence as was ever wit* 
nessed by man. The Aranyakas and Upanishads,®^ though nomi- 
nally connected with the Brahmanas, should rather be regarded as 
the beginning of purely speculative thinking in India. Much more 
closely connected with the older Vedic literature (Saihhitas and 
Brahmapas) are the Srauta-sutras, and to a lesser extent, the Grihya- 
sutras.®^ 

The 6rauta-sutras describe®^ the ritual sacrifices in a language 
that is both vigorous and prophetic in brevity, but is also utterly 
unintelligible for that very reason. No greater contrast can be 
imagined than that between the Brahmanas and the 6rauta-sutras, 
though the subject of treatment is the same in both. Both are 

239 



THE VEDIC AGE 


obscure, but for different reasons: the Brahmanas, because of loose 
thinking, and the Srauta-sutras, because too much is taken to be 
understood in them. Moreover the Srauta-sutras, isolated the com- 
mon and special features of the sacrifices and cleverly dealt with 
them as if they were digits of number, and that by itself must be 
regarded as an intellectual achievement of no mean order. Truly 
scientific spirit is unmistakably reflected in the Srauta-sutras, albeit 
the subject to which this spirit was applied was still magic pure and 
simple.^^ 

The Srauta-sutras of Asvalayana and Sahkhayana belong to 
the Rigveda, which means that the ritual duties of the Hotri-priests 
have been presented in them in a systematic form. But some of the 
verses quoted by Pratika in the ^dukhdyana Sraufa-sutra cannot 
be found in the Sakala-recension of the Rik^samhitd.^^ and so it is 
surmised that it was affiliated to the Bashkala-sakha and not to the 
Sakala-sakha of the Rigijeda. As regards the Brahmanas, its affilia- 
tion is to the Kaushttaki and not the Aitarcya-BrAJimana. Of its 
eighteen chapters, the last two, though not necessarily of later origin, 
were a later addition, dealing with the Mahavrata, a popular festival 
that was given a Brahmanical complexion at a later date. The 
AsvaWyava Srauta-sutras on the other hand, is affiliated to the 
Sakala-sakha of the Rik-Samhitd, and the Aitareya-Brdhmana. Of 
these two Srauta-sutras of the Riaveda, Sahkhayana’s should be the 
older, for its language in some places is like that of the Brahmanas. 
The principal Srauta-sutras of the Sdwaveda are those of Lntyd- 
yana, and Drdhydyana the first affiliated to the Kauthuma-sakha and 
the latter to the Ranayaniya-sakha. A remarkable feature of the 
Ldtydyana Srauta-sutra is that the Sudras, Nishadas, and VrMyas 
have not been treated in it as accursed human beings as is generally 
the case in other Vedic texts.®® 

The Apastamba Srauta-sutra of the Black Yajurveda, belonging 
to the Khandikiya school of the TaittmyaSs is in many respects the 
most important v.^ork of this genre, for no other single work gives 
such an ample (though by no means complete) description of the 
Vedic sacrifices; but the numerous quotations from other ritual texts 
found in it suggest that it should not be placed too high in date. The 
Sdtydshddha Srauta-sutra is a particular recension of the Apastamba 
Srauta-sutra. The Apasthambins seem to have been prejudiced 
against the Kanvas and Kasyapas, for their Srauta-sutra (XTII. 7.5) 
forbids the giving of presents to them. The oldest and the most 
archaic of all the known Srauta-sutras is certainly the Baudhdyana 
Srauta-sutra,^^ also of the Black Yajurveda. In style it still re- 
sembles a Brahmana in most respects, and according to tradition it 
belongs to the Khandikiya-‘School like the Apastamba Srauta-sutra. 
The White Yajurveda is represented in the Srauta-sutra literature 
by the Kdtydyana Srauta-svtra , of which a striking feature is that 

240 



VEDIC LITERATURE— GENERAL VIEW 


three of its Adhyayas (XXII-XXIV) ^re devoted to Samavedic ritual. 
Among the teachers cited by name in it are found some of the Black 
Yajurveda.^"^ 

Lastly, the Atharvavedins too got their Srauta-manual in tJie 
shape of the V aitdna^sutra — anomalously enough, for the Atharva- 
veda has, strictly speaking, nothing to do with Srauta-ritual. But 
since the Sariihita of the Brahma'oachchhamsin, one of the priests 
participating in Soma-sacrifices, came to be appended to the Athar- 
vaveda^'^ the way was apparently opened thereby for the despised 
Atharvavedins to make inroad into the protected field of Srauta- 
ritual. The result of this novel experiment was the Vaitdna-sutra. 
But as Bloomfield has observed, “it is not the product of practices 
in grauta-ceremonies which have slowly and gradually developed 
in a certain high priestly school, but a somewhat conscious product, 
made at a time, when the Atharvavedins began to feel the need oi 
a distinctive Srauta-manual to support their claim that the Athar- 
DUveda is a canonical Veda of independent and superior character. 
Strictly speaking, the Vaitdva-sutra is the Srauta-sutra only of the 
twentieth Kan'da of the Atharvciveda and not of the whole of it. And 
since this Kanc^a is nothing but the Sariihita of the Brahmanach- 
chharhsin, the Vaitdna-siltra may quite appropriately be called the 
Srauta-sutra of the Brahmanachchhaihsin. It may be noted that 
only 18 verses^”' of the twentieth Kanc^Ia of the Atharvaveda have 
not been assigned xnniyoga in the Vaitdna-sutra. 


1 . See svpra. p. 203. 

la. The Upnnishads and the Grihya-sutras are not beint? taken uito consideration 
in this chapter, for they are related more intimately to the post-Vedic than to 
the Vcdic literature proper. They will be discussed in later chapters. 

2 It was pointed out long ago by Oldenberg (ProIcgojuei^M, p. 50S) that not only 
(he Valakhilya-hymns, but also the Supnrna-hymris, the oldest c£ the Khila- 
suktas. had a definite place in riiual according to tradition. According to the 
Anuvakaniikramanl 36, the Bash):aJa-Sariihita contained 1025 hymns, in its 
additional eight hymns being included seven Valakhilyas and the Sarhjhana 
( Oldenberg, Prolp-qo'ivcna, p. 494). Difference between the three recensions thus 
lies only in the Khilas. 

2a. This is why we have six “family Mandalas” in the Pigi'^ecla, This point has 
been fully demonstrated Bergaignc. 

3. Strictly speaking, the Rigveda that we know is the ^isiriya redaction of the 
6akala recension of the text. 

4. All the Vedic scholars, however, excepting Leopold von Schroder, who assigned 
a place in ritual even to the dialogue-hymns (MysteriuTii und Mimin: in Rlgveda. 
p. 36), have answered this question in the negative, though not all with equal 
emphasis. 

4a. It has to be remembered, however, that some special kinds of ntual formulas 
such as the Praisha and Nivid-mantras, though indispensable for ritual fron^ 
the earliest [oeriod, have nowhere been collected in a Sariihita. 

5. RV, r, 190. 

6. RV, VII. 59, 12; X. 20.1; X. 121. 10. , - ^ 

6a. Because Yaska (VI. 28) when referring to him uses the perfect ien.se (chukdra) . 

7. This is definitely proved by the material collected in Bloomfield’s Rigveda 
Repetitionii. 

8. See on this point particularly Oldenberg, Pnolcgoinenc, p. 367. 

8a Thus when as a result of the growing complexity of the Srauta-ritual an 
additional assistant of the Hota (nominally of the Brahman) had to be included 
among the usual band of priests in the person of the Brahmanachchharhsin, a 

241 



THE VEDIC AGE 


n(?w Saiiihita loo had to be created for him which was appended at a very laic 
date to the Atliarvaveda, forming its last Karaja (Oldenberg op. cit., p. 347; 
Dub- VaUd7iasiitra des Atharva^veda, iibersetzt von W. Caland, p. vi). 

9. Bezzenbergcivs Beitrdge, Vol. VIII, p. 195. 

10.. Hillebrandfs theory has been criticized — not quite fairly in our opinion — by 
Oldenberg {Prolegomena, p. 519). Variant reading of Rik-texts in later ritual 
literature should noti, however, be taken as proof in support of Hillebrandfs 
theory, for the variations might have ])eon due to intentional alteration of the 
Rik-texts to suit the ritual practices of a later age. 

11. See Scheftelowitz, Die Apokryphen des Rgveda, p. 9. 

12. It is not at all right to say — as Winternitz does (HIL, I, p. 58) — that the ninth 
Mandala ‘‘contains exclusively hymns which glorify the drink of Soma, and are 
dedicated to the god Soma.’" In fact there is not a single hymn in the ninth 
Mandala dedicated to the god Soma. Such hymns are found only in the other 
Man<jalas — for the simple reason that the Soma-hymns of the ninth Man<Jala 
are dedicated solely to Soma Pavamana and not to Soma. 

13. This point has been particularly stressed by Oldenberg, Prolegojnena, pp. 252-3. 

14. Authors’ lists given in ancillary literature < Anukramanis), though containing 
many apparently spurious names, are on the whole quite trustworthy and fully 
in conformity with ,the i.nternal data of the hymns. For a different view on this 
point see Winternite, op. cih, p. 58. 

15. This systematic reversal of the natural order of the gods is not without signifi- 
cance. Indra is undoubtedly the most powerful god in the Vedic religion, but in 
Vedic ritual Agni may claim the first place — since no sacrifice is possible with- 
out fire. This again goes to support the view that the redactors of the Rik- 
samhitd were guided chiefly by considerations of ritual. 

16. prolegomena, 192. 

17. The eighth Mandala loo may be called a family -Manglala, since the authors are 
mostly of the Kanva family, but authors of other families are also frequently 
mentioned. Nor can it justly claim to be the Pragatha-man<Jala as it does, for 
the majority of its hymns are in non-Pragatha metres, and hymns in Pragatha 
metres are present also in other Mancjalas. 

17a. That is to say, all the family-Man<Jalas might have been constituted out of the 
then existing material in one day or in one minute, but the eighth Mandala, of 
which the most essential part is manifestly its large number of Pragatha-hymns 
which originally should have been distributed — not necessarily equally — among 
all the family- MaiK^ialas (like the Apri-hymns!), could be constituted only after 
the family-MamJaias. 

18. See Oldenberg Prolegomena, p. 250. 

19. Attempts galore have, however, been made to achieve the impossible, the last 
and the most elaborate attempt being Wiist’s Stilgeschichte und Chronologic des 
Rgveda (Leipzig 1928) in which previous literature on this problem has been 
fully indicated. 

20. Cf. below, Ch. XVI, 

21. Oldenberg, Prolegomena, p. 328. 

22. By “Samaveda’’ is to be understood the Kauthuma-sakha of this Sarhhita, with 
which perhaps the Sarhhita of the Ranayaniya-sakha was identical. The Jai- 
7nintya^Sa7hhitd has been edited by Caland. 

23. Readings of this large number of common passages are, however, not identical 
in both the Vedas. Ludwig, after an elaborate comparison of all these passages 
{Der Rigveda, Vol. Ill, pp, 83 ff.) came to the conclusion that in many passages 
the Samaveda has actually retained the original reading and not the Rigveda. 
But Ludwig’s theory has been severely criticized by Oldenberg (Prolegomena, 
pp. 288 ff.). 

24. Much as it was conventional to regard the Padapa^ha as the source of the 
Sarhhita-text. 

25. The Uhagana and tJhyagana are not regarded as canonical. 

26. By “Pragatha” are meant complexes of two verses of which the second is a 
Satobrihatl and the first either a Brihati or a Kakubh (see Rikprdtis&khya, 
XVIII. I.), In actual application, however, every Pragatha has to be artificially 
expanded into a Tricha. 

27. Quite a number of Trichas of the Uttararchika, however, have nothing to 
correspond to them in the Purvarchika: that is because all of them are chanted 
uniformly on the Gayatra-melody composed on the well-known Savitri-mantra 
(tat savitur varenyarn, etc.). On the other hand, many Yonis of the Purvar- 
chika are without a correspondent verse in the Uttararchika: this is perhaps 
because the sacrifices at which the Samans concerned were chanted were not 
Soma -sacrifices (see Caland, Panchavimaa-Brdhmana, Translation, Introd., 
pp. x-xi). 


242 



VEDIC LITERATURE--GENERAL VIEW 

28. The chronological relation between ilic Purvarchika and the Uttararchika has 
been always one of the chief problems facing Vedic scholars, but the problem 
seems insoluble. See on this point particularly Caland, op. cit., pp. xiv ff. and 
Suryakanta, Riktaiitra, pp. 23 ff. where previous literature on this important 
problem has been indicated. 

29. Yajurveda-texts are by no means guide-books in the sense that any person by 
studying them can form a picture of the ritual ceremonies dealt with in them. 

In fact even by studying the relevant portions of the Sarhhitas, Brahmanas, and 
Sutras in the light of the commentaries it is not possible to reconstruct fully 
the duties performed by a single priest at one of the great sacrifices, for all 
these texts proceed on tlie assumption that the ritual is already known to the 
reader in all its details. Only the late Paddhatis may be regarded as guides for 
the uninitiated, but, of course, they contain much that is not Vedic. 

.30. Already in the Rigveda the Adhvaryu is called svhastya and madhupdni (X. 

41. 3) in contrast to the Hotri who is called suvdeh (X. 110.7) and sitjihva 
(I. 13.8). 

30a. Regarding differences of reading between these two, see Caland, Kdnva- 
^atapatha, Introd., p. 91. 

31. Formerly it used to be tacitly assumed that the Sukla-Yajurveda is so called 
because Mantra and Brahmana are not mixed up in it in the Krishna- Yaj ur- 
veda. But it is more probable that the redactors of the former claimed to have 
collected in it only the sukldni yajuvishi “white or pure Yajus” (Ved. Ind., 
II, p. 183) already mentioned in the Brihaddranjjukopaiusliad VI. 4.33 — whence 
the names “White Yajurveda” and as a contrast. “Black Yajurveda.’' 

32. As pointed out long ago by Max Muller, HASL, second edition, I860, p. 453, 
and emphasized by Welaer, H7L, p. 106 fn. 

33. See Keith, HOS, XVIII. p. Ixxvi, Certain sections of the Taittirlya-Brdhmana, 
such as those on human sacrifice (III. 41 and Nakshatreshtayah (1.5) are cer- 
tainly of later origin. 

34. The same applies, vnitatis imitandis, also to the Taittiriya Aranyaka. “The 
Sutra.s do not recognize any distinction between the Aranyaka, the Brdknuina, 
or the Samhitd as regards their Brahmana porlion.s“ (Keith, ibid., p. Ixxvi). 

35. Schroder in his preface to the Maitrdyam Sarnhitd indeed tried to prove the 
priority of the Kathaka and Maitrayani recensions, but failed to convince any 
one. 

36. Keith arrived at this conclusion regarding Taittiriya, Maitrayani, and Kathaka 
(see HOS, XVIII, p. xevi). As regards the Kapishthala, see Oeflel, Znr Kapts- 
th ala- Katha- Samhitd, Miinchen, 1934. 

37. See Keith, op. cit., p. Ixxvii. It should be noted that the Kapishthala, which is 
closely related to the Kafiiaka, agrees with the latter to differ from the Rigtyeda 
in 64 cases, and agrees with the Rigveda to differ from the Kathaka in 45 cases 
(Oertel, op. cit., pp. 9 ff. ). 

38. ProlegovieuG, p. 319. 

39. Op. cit., p. xeix. This applies, pari pa.^sn, also to the Brahmana-parts of the 
other Sariihitas of the Black Yajurveda. 

40. Prolegomena, p. 318, Caland also says “there can be no doubt whatever that 
the Wiite Yajurveda is on the whole younger than the Black Yajurveda*’ 
(Kanva ^atapatha, Introd., p. 92). 

41. They are not, of course, for that reason of later origin. 

42. See Eggeling, SBE, XII, p. xxx. 

43. For further details about the Vdjasaneyi-Sajhhitd, with which the Sarhhita of 
the Kanva-school is practically identical, see Weber, HIL. 107 ff. 

44. The word Vaitdnika signifies ^rotriyas maintaining three fires (see Hillebrandt, 
Rituallittcratnr, p, 69). 

45. Bloomfield’s excellent monograph on the Athan^aveda — like which unfortunately 
there is as yet nothing on any one of the other Saihhitas — offers practically 
everything that a student of the Vedic literature might wish to know about the 
Atharvaveda. The section on the Atharvaveda in this chapter is mainly based 
on Bloomfield’s monograph (published in the Grundriss). 

46. Op. cit., p. 50. 

47. Op. cit., pp. 97-100. 

48. For other recensions, see Bloomfield, op, cit., p. 12. 

49. Published many times. 

50. Edited by Raghu Vira. 

51. As pointed out by Weber, Ind. Stud., XIII, p. 433. 

52. As surmised already by Bloomfield, op. cit., .p. 40. 

53. Always the 6aunakiya recension is to be understood unless the Paippalada is 
specifically mentioned, 

54. See footnote 8a. 


243 



THE VEDIC AGE 


55. A complete edition of this important text by Raghu Vira is now appearing from 
Lahore. The most interesting parts of it were published by Caland in his 
"Auswahl.” For details about it; see Caland, Over cn uit het Jaiminiya-Brahmana. 
Some parts of the JaiminiyaSrdhmanu were published for the first time by 
the present writer in his CoUeciion of Fragments of Lost Brdhmanas (Calcutta, 
1935). . 

56. Of which the Madhyandina recension w^as published long ago by Weber and the 
Kanva recension has been published by Caland (the first volume in 1926 and 
the second in 1940) from Lahore. 

57. Caland, Kdnva-Satapaiha, Introd., p. 90. 

58. Op. cit., p. 102. Bloomfield’s vievv appears to be the right one but it is opposed 
by Caland (Vaitana Sutra, p. iv). 

59. HIL, I, p. 234. 

60. A convenient account of them has been given by Winternitz, op. cit. pp. 225 If. 

61. The Dharmasutras retained only a nominal afiiliation to particular Vedic schools. 

62. Or rather prescribe, for the style is throughout prescriptive, and not de.scriptive. 
This characteristic of the Srauta-sutras is shared also by the Grihya and Dharnia- 
sutras. The Brahmanas, however, aie truly descriptive. 

63. To a lesser extent this method was followed also in the Grihya-sutras. 

64. The following brief account o; Srauta-sutnas is mainly based cn Hillebrandt, 
Rituallitt^ratur, § 7. 

65. These Pratlkas have been collected bv Hillebrandt in his edition of ^ciiikh. Sr. 
S., Vol. I, p. 628. 

66. A Sudra can be killed at will according to Ait. Br., VII. 29.4. 

67. This is the opinion also of Winternitz, op. cit., p. 278. 

68. See Weber, HIL, p. 139. 

69. See footnote 8a above. 

70. Op. cit,, p. 16. 

71. According to the computation of Caland {Vaitdna- Sutra, p. viii). 


244 



CHAPTER XIII 


ARYAN SETTLEMENTS IN INDIA . 

I. GEOGRAPHICAL NAMES IN THE RIGVEDA 

Although it is difficult to arrive at any definite conclusion re- 
garding the original home of the Indo-Aryans, we are in a some- 
what better position in respect of their early settlements in northern 
India and gradual expansion over the whole of this area. For here 
the evidence of Vedic literature comes to our aid, and fortunately 
the earliest part of it, the hymns of the Rigveda, contain abundant 
geographical data. It is a reasonable presumption that the geo- 
graphical names which figure prominently or frequently in these 
hymns indicate regions which were familiar to their authors, and 
were scenes of the early activities of the Aryans. Names less pro- 
minent or frequent might be either outside settlements of the Aryans 
or the border regions inhabited by non-Aryans. It must be remem- 
bered, however, that the Rigveda is not a geographical manual and its 
various recensions have not come down to us in a complete form- It 
would, therefore, be unsafe and hazardous to draw any inference from 
the silence of the Rigveda. The non-mentiofi of any locality in the 
hymns cannot be construed as evidence, one way or the other, unless, 
of course, it can be proved to be of such importance as to be inex- 
plicable except on the hypothesis of want of knowledge. 

In order to ascertain the extent of the Aryan settlements in the 
period of the Rigveda, we should, therefore, consider the references 
to mountains, rivers, localities, countries, tribes, and kingdoms con- 
tained in the hymns. Courses of rivers, especially in the Punjab, 
have considerably changed in the course of the last three or four 
millennia. Their names have also varied in different times. There 
is, therefore, some difference of opinion with regard to the identi- 
fications of the rivers mentioned in the Vedic texts. The same is 
the case regarding the location of the various tribes and countries 
that figure in the Vedic texts, as their boundaries were subject to 
constant modifications and they were known by different names in 
different periods. But in spite of these difficulties it is possible to 
form a fair idea of the location of quite a large number of them. 

As regards mountains, only the Himalaya is directly mentioned 
in the Rigveda, Miijavant, one of its peaks, being referred to as the 
source of Soma. According to Zimmer, this peak was probably on 
the south-west of the valley of Klashmir. 

Rivers have all along played an important part in the lives of 
the Hindus, and even in the Rigvedic age they were esteemed as 
deities, presumably on account of the immense benefits they con- 
ferred on humanity. Out of thirty-one rivers mentioned in the 

245 

V.A.— 16 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Vedic texts, about twenty -five, names occur in the hymns of the 
l^igveda alone. In the celebrated Nadlstuti (X. 75), the Rigveda 
enumerates several streams most of which belong to the Indus system. 

Outside the rivers in the Indus basin, are mentioned Gahga, 
Yamuna, Sarasvati, and Sarayu. Gahga does not appear to be a 
well known or even important stream in the period of the Rigveda. 
Yamuna has been mentioned thrice in the Rigveda, which refers 
to the great victory of Sudas and the Tritsus on the Yamuna in the 
famous D^sardjna. The Sarasvati is the river par excellence (Nadi- 
tama, RV, II 41. 16), and occurs most frequently in the Rigveda. 
It seems to have been the holy stream of the Vedic age. In the 
enumeration of rivers in the Nadlstuti (X. 75.5) Sarasvati comes 
between the Yamuna and Sutudri, and is generally identified with 
the modem Sarsuti', which is lost in the desert at Bhatnair. Roth, 
Zimmer, Griffith, and Ludwig hold that in many passages of the 
Rigveda the Sindhu is meant by the Sarasvati. ^ It may be observed 
in this connection that it is possible that the Sarasvati was as large 
as the Sutlej in the Vedic age, and actually reached the sea, as the 
Rigveda (VI. 61.2, 8; VII. 95.2) describes it as going to the ocean. 
The Sarasvati was the first of the Vedic rivers (11.41.16) and its 
banks witnessed the development of the Vedic sacrifices. 

The Dj-ishadvati, which occurs many times along with the Sa- 
rasvati as an important stream, is identified by some with the 
Ghaggar and by others with the modern Chittang.^ Between the 
Sarasvati and Dfishadvati, flowing past Thanesar, was the Apaya 
{RV, III. 23.4), a small tributary of the Sarasvati. The Gomati 
has been identified by some scholars with the Gomati, which meets 
the Ganges to the east of Benares, and this identification may be 
accepted in so far as the later Saihhitas and Brahmanas are con- 
cerned. The Gomati of the Rigveda as mentioned in the Nadlstuti 
is, however, placed between the Kubha and Krumu. Hence, its 
identification with the Gomal, a western tributary of the Indus, 
seems more reasonable. Sarayu, on the eastern bank of which 
Chitraratha and Ania were defeated by the Turva:^-Yadus, appears 
to be the modem Sarju in Oudh, as suggested by Zimmer and 
others.® The identifications by Ludwig with the Krumu (Kurram) 
and by St. Martin with the united course of the Sutudri (Sutlej) 
and Vipas (Beas) are difficult to accept. 

Then we pass on to the five streams, viz. the Sutudri, Vipas, 
Paruskpi, Asikni, and Vitasta, which give the Punjab its name and, 
united together, flow into the Indus. The Nadlstuti omits the Vipas 
and inserts the Marudvridha between the Asikni and Vitasta. The 
Sutudri is the most easterly river of the Punjab identified with the 
modern Sutlej. Tme to its name, it has considerably changed its 
course even during historical times. Vipai, “fetterless,” is the 
modem Be5s, which has also changed its course considerably. Its 

246 



ARYAN SETTEJEMENTS IN INDIA 

non-mention in the earlier Vedic literature except in two Rigveda^ 
hymns, coupled with its absence in the N adlstuti-hy mn, supports 
the hypothesis that it was of small importance. 

Parushni, the modern Ravi, was an important stream which 
played a decisive part in the Ddsardjna (battle of the ten kings), by 
rising and drowning the enemies of Sudas. Asiknl, known later 
as the Chandrabhaga, is the modern Chenab in the Punjab. Finally 
comes Vitasta, the most westerly of these five rivers, known today 
as Jhelum. Roth and Zimmer consider that the Marudvpidha men- 
tioned in the Nadlstuti (X. 75.5) denotes the combined waters of 
the Asiknl (Chenab) and Vitasta (Jhelum) down to its junction 
with the Parushni (Ravi), and Chakladar accepts this view.^ Stein, 
however, rightly places the Marudvridha in Kashmir, identifying it 
with Maruwardwan, a small Kashmirian stream flowing from north 
to south which joins the Chenab on its northern bank at Kashtwar.' 
Yaska identifies the Arjikiya and Sushoma, mentioned after the 
Vitasta in the Nadistuti, respectively with the Vipas and the Sindhu.^ 

Now we turn to the western tributaries of the Indus. The 
Rasa has been identified with the Jaxartes, a stream in the extreme 
north-west of the Vedic territory. The Kubha is the modem Kabul 
river which flows into the Indus a little above Attock and receives 
at Prang the joint flow of its tributaries, the Swat (Suvastu) and 
Gauri. The Krumu or the Kurram and Gomatl or the Gomal are 
tributaries of the Indus meeting it further south. The Susartu and 
Svetya appear to have been the tributaries of the Indus above the 
Kubha, whereas the Mehatnu, Krumu, and Gomati are the three 
tributaries below the Kubha.^ The Suvastu, as already stated, is 
the Swat, a tributary of the Kubha, which itself is a tributary of 
the Indus. The word Suvastu, signifying ‘'fair dwellings,’^ seems to 
indicate that there was an Aryan settlement along its banks. Hari- 
yupiya, the scene of the defeat of the Vrichivants by Abhyavartin 
Chayamana (RV, VI. 27.5) has been taken either as denoting a place 
or a river. As a place-name Harappa has been suggested as the 
modern name of Hariyuplya.® Many other lesser streams have not 
yet been identified with any degree of certainty, and are not men- 
tioned here. 

In conclusion, we must consider also the implication of the 
term Saptasindhavah as used in the Rigveda. The term means a 
definite country in Rigveda, VIII. 24.27, whereas at other places 
seven streams themselves are intended. According to Max Miiller, 
the seven rivers are the five rivers of the Punjab along with Indus 
and Sarasvati. Ludwig, Lassen, and Whitney substitute Kubha for 
the Sarasvati and think that originally the Oxus also must have 
been one of the seven. Considering that the Rigveda mentions the 
Kubha (Kabul), Gromatl (Gumal), Krumu (Kurram), Suvastu 

247 



THE VEDIC AGE 


(Swat), etc., which lie to the west of the Indus, it is possible that 
the Rigvedic people knew of the existence of the Oxus. The rea- 
sonable view, however, appears to be to take the seven streams 
to be the Indus, the five streams of the Punjab an^ the Sarasvatl. 

We may thus conclude that the extent of the country as reflected 
in the hymns is, Afghanistan, the Punjab, parts of Sind and Raj- 
putana, the North-West Frontier Province, Kashmir, and Eastern 
India up to the Sarayii. 

This conclusion is confirmed by another consideration. That 
the Vedic people had not yet penetrated into the swampy jungles 
of Bengal may be inferred from the absence of the mention of the 
tiger in the Rigveda which assigns the premier place to the lion.®^ 

There is a diflference of opinion among scholars as to the part 
of India where the bulk of the Rigveda was composed. Max Muller, 
Weber, Muir, and others held that the Punjab was the main scene 
of the activity of the Rigveda^ whereas the more recent view put 
forth by Hopkins and Keith is that it was composed in the country 
round the Sarasvati river south of modern Ambala.^ Brunnhofer, 
Hertel, Hiising, and others, however, argue that the scene of the 
Rigveda is laid, not in the Punjab, but in Afghanistan and Iran.'io 
These and other theories need not be discussed in detail. Keith has 
rightly observed that ‘‘conclusions can be drawn only with much 
caution. It is easy to frame and support by plausible evidence va- 
rious hypotheses, to which the only effective objection is that other 
hypotheses are equally legitimate, and that the facts are too imper- 
fect to allow of conclusions being drawn.'*^^ 

As the names of the rivers in the Rigveda show that the Vedic 
people knew the whole of the Punjab and occupied the best part of 
it, there is no need to suppose the bulk of the hymns to have been 
composed either in Iran or in the Ambala district. 

It is a controversial question whether the Vedic tribes in the 
days of the Rigveda had reached the ocean and had knowledge of sea 
navigation. Keith and many other European scholars hold that 
there is no clear indication in the Rigvedic period that ocean and sea 
navigation were known. Max Muller, Lassen, Zimmer, and the 
authors of the Vedic Index on the other hand assert that ocean 
was known to the Rigvedic people. This seems to be the more 
probable view. The Sarasvati is stated to have reached the sea 
(above, p. 246), and the hymns X. 136, 5 and 6 seem clearly to refer 
to the western and eastern oceans. References to the treasures of 
the ocean and to Bhujyu’s story appear to allude to marine naviga- 
tion. The knowledge of high tide can be inferred from JRigveda, 
1.48.3. All these references indubitably prove that the Rigvedic 
people not only knew the sea, but were mariners and had trade re- 
lations with the outside world. 


248 



ARYAN SETTI^MENTS IN INDIA 

2. THE TRIBES IN THE IHGVEDA 

The whole of the territory known to the Vedic settlers was 
divided into a number of tribal principalities ruled normally by 
kings. The DoAaxdjna or the battle of the ten kings is an important 
historical event alluded to in various hymns of the Rigveda, and as 
many of the important tribes and personalities figured in this famous 
battle, it is worth while outlining the conflict. Sudas was a Bha- 
rata king of the Tritsu family which was settled in the country 
which later came to be known as Brahmavarta. At first Visvamitra, 
a scion of the Kusika family of the Bharatas, was the priest of 
Sudas, and led him to victorious campaigns on the Vipas and Su- 
tudri. Visvamitra, however, was dismissed later by Sudas, who 
appointed Vasishtha as his priest, probably on account of the supe- 
rior Brahmanical knowledge of the Vasish^has. ‘Thereupon a long 
and bitter rivalry ensued between the two priests, and in revenge 
Visvamitra led a tribal confederacy of ten kings against the Bha- 
ratas, the federation consisting of the five well-known tribes Puru, 
Yadu, Turvasa, Anu, and Druhyu, along with five of little note, 
viz. Alina, Paktha, Bhalanas, Siva, and Vishanin. In the bloody 
and decisive struggle on the Parushni, the Bharatas emerged vic- 
torious, utterly routing the confederacy, of whom the Anu and 
Druhyu kings were drowned, and Purukutsa of the Purus met his 
death. There was another battle that Sudas had to fight in which 
the tliree non-Aryan tribes, Ajas, Sigrus, and Yakshus had united 
under king Bheda; but these new assailants also met with the same 
fate and were defeated with great slaughter on the Jumna. The 
location of these tribes, along with their activities in the period of 
the Rigt'fcda, will now be considered in the order of their importance 
as far as possible. 

The Bharatas, who gave their name to the whole country, are 
the most important of the Rigvedic tribes. They were settled, in 
the Rigvedic age, in the region between the Sarasvati and Yamuna 
The Bharatas appear prominently in the Riqveda in relationship 
with Sudas and the Tritsus, and are enemies of the Purus. Their 
princes sacrificed on the Sarasvati, Drishadvatl, and Apava, i.e. 
Kurukshetra of later times. Their military prowess in the Rig- 
vedic age, displayed in their successful campaigns both against the 
Aryans on the west and the non-Aryans in the east, is matched by 
the superiority of their cult and ritual practices which seem to have 
attained prominence and supremacy in a later period. Visvamitra 
is referred to as a Bharatarshabha and a Kauiika, so that he belonged 
to the Kusika family of the Bharatas. 

The exact relation of the TVitsus and Bharatas cannot be deter^ 
mined and there is a sharp difference of* opinion among scholars on 
this subject. The Tritsus occupied the country to the east of the 
Parushni. Both being enemies of the Purus, Ludwig’s identiflca- 

249 



THE VEDIC AGE 


tion of the Bharatas and Tritsus appears to be correct. Oldenberg, 
however, takes the Tfitsus to ^ the priests of the Bharatas, thus 
identifying them with the Vasishthas, whereas according to Geldner, 
the Tyitsus were the royal family of the Bharatas, which appears to 
be the most probable view. Zimmer’s theory representing the 
I^itsus and Bharatas as enemies is clearly untenable. The Tritsus 
and their kinsfolk the Bharatas were at war with the various tribes 
on both sides of the Parushni and Yamuna, as already stated. In 
post-Rigvedic times, however, they coalesced with the Purus, their 
erstwhile enemies, to form the Kuru people of later times. The 
Rigveda refers to the Syinjayas as being the allies of the Tritsus. 
The Tfitsus apparently had hereditary kings to rule over them. One 
of them, Divodasa, sumamed Atithigva, was a great conqueror, who 
successfully fought*^ against the Purus, Yadus, and Turvasas on the 
one hand, and against 6ambara, the Dasa king, the Panis, etc., on 
the other. Sudas, the son of Pijavana, was a descendant of Divo- 
dasa; his exploits in the Ddsardjna and against Bheda have been 
referred to. He was not only a famous warrior, but also a great 
scholar and composer of hymns. 

The Purus have been mentioned in the Rigveda along with 
Anus, Druhyus, Turvasas, and Yadus. Though defeated in the 
Ddsardjna, the Purus were a very important tribe in the days of the 
Rigveda. They were closely connected with the Tritsus and the 
Bharatas, and lived on either side of the SarasvatT. The unusually 
large number of kings of the Purus suggests the importance of the 
tribe. The various names indicate the following genealogy of the 
Puru kings: Durgaha — Girikshit — Purukutsa — Trasadasyu. Puru 
kutsa is mentioned as a contemporary of Sudas and a conqueror of 
the Dasas; a son Trasadasyu is said to have been born to Purukutsa 
at a time of great distress, probably indicating his death or capture 
in the famous Ddsardjna. The mention of Sudas or Divodasa 
and Purukutsa or Trasadasyu in a friendly relation in some passages 
of the Rigveda suggests the union of the Tritsus, Bharatas, and Purus 
to form the Kurus. The name “Kuru” is not directly mentioned in 
the Rigveda, but the amalgamation of these rival tribes in later 
Vedic period under Kuru is implied by the name Rurusravana of a 
king of the Puru line as shown by his patronymic Trasadasyava 
(RV, X. 33.4). 

Connected with the Kurus were the Krivis, a comparatively 
unimportant tribe who possibly lived on the Sindhu (Indus) and 
the Asikni (Chenab), and later moved to the east across the Yamuna 
to the land later known as PanchMa. The insignificance of the 
Krivis in later literature as compared with the importance of the 
Paiichalas is probably due to the fact that the later Kuru-Panchala 
alliance included not only the Bharatas and other tribes but Krivis 

250 



ARYAN SETTLEMENTS IN INDIA 

also. The ^atapatha Brdhmoina asserts that Krivi was the older 
name of the Pahchalas (XIII. 5.4.7). 

Closely allied with the Tritsus was the tribe of the Srinjayas 
who lived in their neighbourhood, probably in Panchala. Hille- 
brandt locates the Srinjayas to the west of the Indus, and Zimmer, 
on the upper Indus. As their allies the Tritsus were in the Madhya- 
desa, the authors of the Vedic Index rightly suggest that the Srihja- 
yas may well have been a good deal further east than the Indus. 
Daivavata, a king of the Srinjayas, is celebrated as victorious over 
the Turvasas and the Vrichivants. Daivavata's sacrificial fire is 
referred to, and Sahadevya Somaka is mentioned in this connection. 
Prastoka, a Srinjaya, has been lauded along with Divodasa. Tur- 
vasas were the common enemies of the Srinjayas. and Bharatas. 

The Anus, Druhyus, Yadus, and Turvasas were the allies of the 
Purus against the Bharatas. These five, according to Zinuner, are 
the ‘'five peoples” (Panchajandh) of the Rigveda. The expression 
“five peoples” occurs under various names in the Rigveda and later 
Vedic literature. Who exactly are indicated by the five is not quite 
certain.^ 

Among the tribes who were hostile to Sudas, the Druhyus, 
Turvasas, and Anus lived between the Asikni and Parush3:d. The 
names Yadu and Turvasa normally occur together in the Rigveda, 
These two closely allied tribes lived ip the southern Punjab and 
probably further south. Hopkins regards Turvasa as the name of 
the Yadu king;*'^ but the evidence for this is not conclusive. Zim- 
mer identifies Turvasas with Vrichivants, but the passages merely 
show that they were allies. The name Turvasa disappears from 
later Vedic literature, possibly because they became merged in 
the Panchala people. 

The Matsyas in the epic age lived to the west of the Sura- 
senas of Mathura, i.e. in modern Alwar, Bharatpur, and Jaipur, 
which was probably their home also in the Rigvedic age.^''^ 

The Ajas, Sigrus, and Yakshus were probably the eastern 
people. They are generally regarded as non-Aryan, though there 
is no definite information on this point. 

The Pakthas, Bhalanases, Vishanins, Alinas, and 6ivas were 
the five frontier tribes. The Pakthas lived in the hills from which 
the Krumu originates. Zimmer locates them in eastern Afghanis- 
tan, identifying them with the modern Pakthun. South of the 
Pakthas stretched the Bhalanases for whom Zimmer suggests east 
Kabulistan as original home. The Vishanins, so-called probably 
because their helmets were horn-shaped or ornamented with horns, 
were, like their allies, a tribe of the north-west, located farther down 
between the Krumu and the Gomati, ‘North-east of Kafiristan has 
been suggested as the location of the Alinas, who were closely 
allied with the Pakthas, and were certainly the enemies of Sudas, 

251 



THE VEDIC AGE 


and not his allies, as thought by Roth. The 6ivas lay between the 
Sindhu and Vitasta in the Vedic period. 

Now we turn to the other tribes which have not been directly 
mentioned as participants in the Ddsardjnay or in any of the wars 
waged by Sudas. 

The Chedis, who dwelt probably between the Yamuna and 
the Vindhyas, had a very powerful king named Kasu who is said 
in a Danastuti (VIII. 5.37-39) to have made a gift of ten kings as 
slaves to his priest. The Puranic literature represents the Chedis 
as an offshoot of the Yadus. 

The Usinaras are mentioned in the Aitareya Brdhmana as 
dwelling in the middle country along with the Vasas and the Kuru- 
Panchalas. There .is nothing to support Zimmer’s conjecture that 
the U^naras in the Rigvedic times lived farther to the north-west, 
and it is reasonable to suppose that in the Rigvedic period also 
they lived in the middle country. 

The Gandharis, one of the frontier peoples, lived to the ex- 
treme north-west of India. The good wool of the sheep of the 
Gandharis has been referred to in the Rigveda (I. 126. 7). Accord- 
ing to Zimmer they were settled in the Vedic times on the south 
bank of the Kubha up to its junction with the Indus and for some 
distance down the east side of the Indus itself. 

Ludwig and Weber find in certain Rigvedic passages which 
mentioned Prithu-Prasvah (RV, VII. 83. 1: meaning “with large 
ribs,” or “with broad axes”) a reference to the Prithus and Parsus, 
i.e. the Parthians and the Persians. The meaning and sense in 
the passages, however, require the word Parsu to be taken as “ribs.” 
In a passage of the Rigveda (VITI. 6. 46) Yadu is brought into special 
connection with the Parsus. It cannot, however, be definitely stated 
that the Parsus were Persians. 

The Paravatas occurring in several passages of the Rigveda 
have been rightly taken as a people on the Yamuna on the strength 
of the mention of the Sarasvatl in their connection (RV, VI. 61. 2) 
as also of their location there in the Panchavimsa Brdlfirrutna. Their 
location on the northern borders of Gedrosia, as proposed by Hille- 
brandt and Geldner, does not appear to be correct. 

The Kikatas occur in the Rigveda (III. 53. 14) as a people under 
Pramaganda’s leadership and hostile to the singer. Zimmer, on 
Yaska’s authority, takes these people as non-Aryans and locates 
them in the country later known as Magadha. Weber accepts the 
location but takes them to be Aryans, though at variance with the 
other Aryan tribes. 

The Panis are often mentioned with the Dasas and Dasyus as 
the enemies of the Aryans. Though onulent and rich, the Panis 
never worshipped the gods or rewarded the priests. They have 
been described as selfish, non-sacrificing, with hostile speech. 

252 



ARYAN SETTLEMENTS IN INDIA 

greedy like the wolf, niggardly, of qruel speech, Dasyus, Dasas of 
inferior status. They were cattle-owners and notorious cattle- 
lifters, and in some passages definitely figure as demons who with- 
held the cows or waters of the heavens. Vala, whom Indra pier- 
ced when he robbed Pani of his cows, appears to be their patron 
God. Bj-ibu is mentioned as one of their kings. The question of 
the identity of the Panis has not yet been settled with any degree 
of certainty. The words Panik or Vanik, Panya, and Vipani, 
found in Sanskrit, suggest that the Panis were merchants par ex- 
cellence in the Rigvedic age. The Panis have been variously iden- 
tified with an aboriginal non- Ary an people; with Babylonians (on 
the strength of the word Bekanata); with Parnians, the Dahae and 
other Iranian tribes; and with non- Aryan caravan traders. They 
might have been the Aryan sea-traders who spread the Aryan 
culture to the west. 

Derived from the same root (das, '‘lay waste” or "waste away”) 
which originated the word Dasyu, the Dasas have been described 
as the enemies of the Vedic people, sometimes of a demoniac cha- 
racter; but many passages speak of them as the human foes of the 
Aryans. The^^ lived in fortified towns (dyaslh purah) and were 
divided into clans (viJak). Dasavarna has been alluded to a num- 
ber of times, and the Dasas are said to be black-skinned (krishnat- 
vach)^ noseless or flat-nosed (ands) and ovil-tongued (mridhra^ 
7)dch), some of these epithets being shared in common with Dasyus. 
In the Rigveda, Dasa is not so reproachful a term as Dasyu. As 
Dasa in later literature became a synonym for slave, it can plausibly 
be said that originally the term was applied to captives in war 
who were enslaved. Hillebrandt and others identify the Dasas 
with the Dahae of Tran J S'* as they place the scene of activity of the 
Rig 7 ?cda in Arachosia, where they locate the Sarasvatl. 

The Dasas owned considerable wealth, and Ilibisa, Dhuni, 
Chumuri, Sambara, Varchin, Pipru, etc., have been mentioned as 
individual Dasa kings, some of w^hom later received demoniac attri- 
butes, and were regarded as cele.stial foes of Indra and other gods. 
The Kiratas, Kikatas, Chan(;lalas. Parnakas, Simyus, etc., w^ere Dasa 
tribes who mostly inhabited the Gangetic Valley and fought the 
Bharatas in their advance to the east and south-east. 

Though in many passages the term Dasyu is applied to super- 
natural enemies, there is no doubt that in several oassages the 
term designates human foes. The main difference between the 
Dasyus and the Vedic Aryans appears to be religious. The Dasyus 
were rite-less (a-karma??), indifferent to the gods ( a-deiyaini) , 
without devotion (a^hrahman), not sacrificing (a-yajvan^, lawless 
fa-urata), following strange ordinances (hnym^rata) , reviling the gods 
(deva-plyu), etc. Some of these epithets have been applied also to 
the Dasas, as compared to whom they are less distinctively a }>eople, 

253 



THE VEDIC AGE 


as no clans {visah) of the Dapyus have been mentioned. Zimmer 
and Meyer think that the original meaning of the term Dasyu (and 
Dasa) was '‘enemy,” which later developed into “hostile country’’ 
with the Iranians, while the Indians extended the original signi- 
fication of “enemy” to include demon foes. That to the Rigvedic 
bards there was not much difference between the Dasas and 
Dasyus would be evident from their sharing some epithets in com- 
mon, and also from some persons being described both as Dasyu 
and Dasa, etc. 

The Asuras are generally referred to as enemies of Vedic 
people and of their gods, but some passages use the term in a good 
sense. One probable explanation of this has been hinted at be- 
fore. Another, suggested by Bhandarkar, is that the hymns in 
which Vedic deities receive the appellation Asura were composed 
by seers of Asura stock who had embraced the Aryan religion, 
and the deprecatory passages were composed by Aryan seers anta- 
gonistic to the Asuras. The enmity between Aryan and Asura 
increased in the post-Rigvedic period. 

It is indeed difficult to identify the Asuras with any of the 
ancient people. Sten Konow takes them to be non-human. 
Banerji Sastri considers the Asuras as immigrants from Assyria, 
the followers of the Asura cult who preceded the Aryans in India 
and were the authors of the Indus Valley civilization. Bhandar- 
kar takes the Asuras to be the Assurs or Assyrians and suggests 
that the Satapatlia Brdhmana refers to the Asura settlements in 
Magadha or South Bihar. 

The Rakshas does not indicate any definite tribe; according 
to the authors of the Vedic Index it normally refers to demons in 
early Vedic literature, and is applied to human foes only meta- 
phorically. The Pi^chas also likewise are not a tribe in Vedic 
literature though in later literature it is the designation of a tribe. 

As a result of the above survey we may briefly indicate the 
position and extent of the tribal settlements referred to in the Rigeda. 
Roughly speaking the extreme north-west was occupied by the 
Gandharis, Pakthas, Alinas, Bhalanases, and Vishanins, some of 
whom probably contained non-Aryan elements. In Sind and the 
Punjab were settled the Sivas, Parsus, Kekayas, Vrichivants, Yadus, 
Anus, Turvasas, and Druhyus. Further east towards the region of 
the Madhyadesa were the settlements of the Tritsus, Bharatas, 
Purus, and Srinjayas, the eastern-most part being in the occupation 
of the Kikatas. The Matsyas and Chedis were settled to the south 
of the Punjab in the region of Rajputana and Malwa. It may 
thus be reasonably concluded that the Aryan settlements during 
the period of the Rigveda were practically co-terminous with 
the extent of the geographical knowledge of the period, as mentioned 
above. 


2M 



ARYAN SETTLEMENTS IN INDIA 

3. THE PERIOD OF THE.LATER SAMHITAS, 
BRAHMANAS, UPANISHADS, AND SUTRAS 

1. Geographical Names 

We may form a fair idea of the Aryan settlements in the post- 
Rigvedic period, by utilizing the geographical data of the later Vedic 
texts and following the same line of enquiry as in the last two sec- 
tions. 

The word Samudra in later Vedic texts generally, if not in- 
variably, means the sea. The reference in the Satapatha Brahma^ 
(1. 6. 3. 11) to the eastern and western oceans probably suggests 
that the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean were known to the 
people of that period. 

Trikakud (i.e. having three peaks), as the 'name of a moun- 
tain in the Himalayas, has been identified with modern Trikota. 
Krauhcha, which occurs only in the Taittirlya Aranyaka (1. 31. 2), 
has been identified with that part of the Kailasa mountain on 
which Manasa Sarovara is situated.^'' Mainaka is mentioned in 
the same text as a mountain in the Himalayas. Though not direct- 
ly mentioned, Vindhya has been definitely alluded to in the Kau- 
shitaki Upanishad by the term ‘‘southern mountain/’ 

Turning to the rivers, the most striking fact is the dis- 
appearance of the Sarasvatl. The place where the river vanished 
in the desert was known as Vinasana (Patiala District), and it re- 
appeared at Plaksha Prasravana at a distance of forty-four days’ 
journey from Vinasana. 

Naturally enough, the rivers further to the east find a promi- 
nent mention in this period. Reva, the name of the Narmada 
which occurs only in post- Vedic literature, is traced by Weber in 
the word Revottaras found in the Satapatha Brdhmana; but the 
interpretation is doubtful. The Sadanira has been mentioned in 
the Satapatha Brdhma'tia (I. 1. 1. 14 ff.) as the boundary'' between 
the Kosalas and Videhas. Some lexicographers have identified it 
with the Karatoya, but according to the Vedic Index, it is too far east. 
Weber and Eggeling identify it with the Gandak, and Pargiter 
with the Rapti. Though the Mahdbhdrata (Cr. Ed. II. 18. 27), 
by placing the Sadanira between the Gandak and Sarayu, distin- 
guishes between the Sadanira and Gandak, the Vedic Index pro- 
nounces the identification of the two as “probably correct. ”^2 

The later Vedic texts mention various place-names w^hich can 
be identified with reasonable certainty. Parichakra, mentioned in 
the Satapatha Brdhmana (XHI. 5. 4. 7) as the name of a Panchala 
town where king ICraivya Panchala performed his horse-sacrifice, 
has been identified by Weber with the plater Ekachakra which was 
near Kampila. Asandivat is the title of the capital of Janamejaya 
Parikshita where the horse for his famous Aivamedha was bound 


255 



THE VEDIC AGE 


(Scit, Br., XIII. 5. 4. 2; Ai^ Br, VIII. 21) It was apparently 
in the Kurukshetra. It was probably identical with Nagasahvaya 
(Hastinapura) which was abandoned by Nichakshu, a descendant 
of Parikshit, on its being washed away by the Ganges, and the 
capital was removed to Kausambi.^s Kampila, found in the Sata- 
patha Brdhmava, has been identified with modern Kampil on the 
old Ganges between Budaun and FarrukhabM. Naimisha forest, 
mentioned as being clearly of special sanctity, has been identified 
with Nimsar at a short distance from the Nimsar station of the 
Oudh and Rohilkhand Railway. The Taittiriya Aranyaka (V. 1. 1) 
mentions the Manus as the Utkara (heap) of Kurukshetra. This 
can be identified with the later Marusthala (Maru deserts) as it 
stood in the relation of Utkara to the sacr€xi altar Kurukshetra. 
The existence of KausambI which plays an important part in the 
life of king Udayana Vatsaraja can be inferred from the word 
Kausambeya in the Sato.patha Brdhmana (XII. 2. 2. 13). The town 
has been identified with modern Kosam on the Yamuna. 

The later Vedic literature refers to the three broad divisions — 
Brahmavarta or Aryavarta, Madhyadesa, and Dakshinapatha. There 
is also a five-fold division with the enumeration of the residents 
therein which we come across for the first time in the Aitareya 
Brdhinctna (VIII. 14), though it has, in a way, fieen anticipated by 
the Atharimveda (XIX. 17. 1, 9). The Aitareya Brahmav^ divi- 
des the whole country into five parts, viz. 1. Dhruvd Madhyamd 
Pratishthd dis or Madhyadesa or middle country, 2. Prdchidis or 
the eastern quarter, 3. Dakshinddis or the southern quarter, 4. 
Pratlchldls or the western quarter, and 5. Udichidii or the northern 
quarter. The extent and limits of these divisions cannot be defined 
with any degree of plausibility. 

2 The Tribes 

* 

The status, formation, and nomenclature of the various tribes 
mentioned in the Rigveda underwent considerable changes during 
the period under review. Many of the old tribes disappear, pale 
into insignificance, are merged into others, or are known under new 
names, and many fresh tribes rise into prominence. The five pre- 
mier tribes of the Punjab, the Purus, Anus, Druhyus, Yadus, and 
Turvasas recede into the background. The Purus, as already indi- 
cated, have along with the Bharatas amalgamated with the Kurus 
who occupy the territory these two tribes held, and along with their 
allies, the Panchalas, are the pre-eminent people in the period. 
The Bharatas as a tribe disappear, but the fame of their kings is 
not lost to the texts of this jperiod. Bharata Dauhshanti and Satra- 
jita are mentioned as famous kings and performers of the Asva- 
medha, and Bharata kings are spoken of as winning victories over 

256 



ARYAN SETTLEMENTS IN INDIA 

the Kasis and Satvants and as perfctnning sacrifices on the Gahga 
and the Yamuna. 

The Kurus along with Pahchalas, Vasas and Usinaras occu- 
pied the Madhyadesa. The Kurus do not appear as a people in 
the Rigveda, but Kuru forms part of the name of a king, Kurusra- 
vana, mentioned therein. The Atharvavcda (XX. 127. 7-10) 

speaks of the Kuru king Parikshit in whose reign the Kuru king- 
dom flourished exceedingly. Reference is made to his descendant 
Janamejaya who performed an Asvamedha at Asandivat, probably 
Hastinapura of later days. The Kuru kingdom roughly corres- 
ponded to modern Thanesar, Delhi, and the Upper Gangetic Doab.^"*^ 

The Panchalas, the close allies of the Kurus as indicated by 
their joint name, were also a composite tribe. The name does not 
appear in the Rigveda, but the Satapatha Brahmaiia states that 
the older name for the Panchalas was Krivi which is found in the 
Rigveda, Weber and Geldner suggest that the Panchalas repre- 
sent the five tribes of the Rigveda; but this is not very probable 
according to the authors of the Vedic Index.^^ 

We hear very little of the Panchalas alone apart from the 
Kurus. Their kings Kraivya and Sona Satrasaha are spoken of 
as having performed the Asvamedha, and another king Durmukha 
is said to have conquered the whole earth. One of their kings 
Pravahana Jaivali appears as a philosopher king in the Upanishads. 

The Vedic texts do not know of north Panchala and south Pan- 
chala which we come across in the Mahabhdrata and the Pur^as; 
evidently the Panchalas had extended their country by conquests 
in post- Vedic times. The territory of the Panchalas roughly corres- 
ponded to the Bareilly, Budaun, Farrukhabad, and adjoining dis- 
tricts of the United Provinces. 

The Kuru-Pafichalas are the people par excellence in the Brah- 
mana period, and they are referred to as a united nation. At one 
time the Kuru-Panchalas are said to have had one king. The mode 
of sacrifice of the Kuru-Panchalas is spoken of as the best, and their 
Brahmaijas gained eminence and fame in the period of the Upani- 
shads. The Kuru-Paiichala kings, the models for others, performed 
Rajasuyas and set out on their victorious raids in autumn and return- 
ed in summer. Speech is said to have been best spoken there, and 
the Saihhitas and Brahmanas seem to have taken their definite form 
among the Kuru-Panchalas. 

We have seen that the Srinjayas were closely allied with the 
Tritsus in the Rigvedic age. The Satapatha Brdhmana (II. 4. 4. 5) 
supports this view by stating that the Kurus (who were the suc- 
cessors of the Tritsus, Bharatas, and Purus in post-Rigvedic age) 
and the Srinjayas had one Purohita. . The Satapatha Brdhmana 
(XII. 9. 3. i ff.) further refers to a historical incident relating to 
this clan. The Yajurveda Samhitds refer to the Srinjayas having 

?57 



THE VEDIC AGE 


suffered some serious loss due to some ritual error, though what 
exactly befell them is not mentioned. 

Vitahavya, mentioned in the Rigveda (VI. 15. 2, 3) along with 
Bharadvaja and as a contemporary of Sudas, may have been a 
king of the Srihjayas. In the Atharvaveda (VI. 137. 1), he appears 
as connected with Jamadagni and Asita; but this legend has pro- 
bably little value. The Vitahavyas are said to have come to ruin 
because they devoured a Brahmana’s cow (AV, V. 18. 10-11; 19. 1). 

Vasas and Usinaras, as stated earlier, were dwelling in the 
middle country with the Kuru-Pahchalas. The Gopatha Brdh- 
mana which speaks of the Vasas and Usinaras as united (I. 2. 9) 
regards them as northerners (II. 9). These Usinaras according to 
Weber were the forefathers of the later K^is and Videhas.^'^ The 
Kaushitaki Upanisiiad (IV. 1) connects the Vasas also with the 
Matsyas. The countr^'^ of the Vasas, who later came to be known as 
Vatsas, was situated round about Kausambi, their capital. 

The Sibis were intimately associated with the Usinaras. The 
Aitareya Brdhmana (VIII. 23. 10) refers to Amitratapana, a king 
of the Sibis. Rigveda X. 179 has been ascribed by the Anukravianil 
to ^ihi Ausinara. Sivapura, which has been identified with Sibi- 
pura mentioned in a Shorkot inscription/^ is referred to by Patah- 
jali (IV. 2. 2) as situated in the northern country. The Sibis in- 
habited the Shorkot region in Jhang in the Punjab lying between 
the Iravati and the Chandrabhaga. 

Matsyas appear in connection with the Vasas in the Kaushl- 
taki Upctnishad and with the Salvas in the Gopatha Brdhmana 
(I. 2. 9). Their king Dhvasan Dvaitavana, who performed the 
sacrifice at the lake Dvaitavana, is included in the list of Asva- 
medhins in the Satapatha Brdhmana (XIII. 5. 4. 9) According to 
the Manusmriti (II. 19; VII, 193) the Matsyas were included in the 
Brahmarshidesa. 

The Salvas are mentioned in the SatapatJm Brdhmana 
(X. 4. 1. 10). The Mantrapatha indicates their location near the 
Yamuna, and it is not likely that they were in the north-west in 
Vedic times. The epic associates the Salvas with the Kuru-Pan- 
chalas, and they occupied probably what is now the modem Alwar 
state. 

The name Ikshvaku occurs but once in the Rigveda (X. 60. 4) 
where it denotes a prince. The ^atapatha Brdhmana knows Puru- 
kutsa as Aikshvaka (XIII. 5. 4. 5), so that some scholars take the 
Ikshvaku line to have originally been a line of princes of the 
Kurus, who were on the Sarasvati in the Vedic period, whereas 
Ikshvaku is connected with Ayodhya and the eastern peoples. 

Kosala and Videha do ^ not appear in the earlier Vedic litera- 
ture, being first mentioned in the Satapatha Brdhmana (I. 4. 1. 10 ff.) 
which relates the story of the spread of the Aryan culture. Videgha 

258 



ARYAN SETTLEMENTS IN INDIA 

Mathava, the king of the VidehaSji^ accompanied by his priest 
Gotama Rahugana, is spoken of as carrying the sacrificial fire from 
the bank of the Sarasvati over Kosala (Oudh) eastwards across the 
Sadanira, and as establishing a settlement which was known as 
Videha (Tirhut) after the tribal name of Mathava. The story 
preserves the tradition that the Videhas received their culture 
from the west, that Kosala was Brahmanized before Videha, that 
the country as far as the Sadanira was conquered in one sweep, 
and that the progress was checked for a while after which Videha 
was founded across the river. The later division of Kosala into 
the northern and southern is not known to the Vedic literature. 

Para-Atnara-Hairanyanabha, the Kosala king, is spoken of as 
the performer of an Asvamedha (^at. Br.^ XIII. 5. 4. 4). The 
close connection between the Kosalas, Videhas, and K^is is indi- 
cated by the fact that the three had the same Purohita acting for 
them {SdnkK Sr, S. XVL 29. 5j. It appears, however, that the 
Kosala- Videhas were allied tribes and that there was some differ- 
ence and rivalry between these and the Kuru-Panchalas. The 
Brahmanism was not as strong in Kosala as among the Kuru-Pan* 
chalas. The Videhas rose into eminence later through their philo- 
sopher king Janaka who was a leading patron of the Upanishadic 
doctrines. 

K^i, along with Kosala and Videha, came into prominence 
only in later Vedic age. The K^is and Videhas were closely con- 
nected on account of their proximity, and Weber suggests that these 
two together constituted the Usinaras.^^ This, however, cannot be 
accepted, as the Usinaras dwelt in the middle country. K^ and 
Kosala are also found together. There is the story of the defeat 
of Dhi’itar^htra, king of Kasis, by Satanika Satrajita, a Bharata 
king, resulting in the giving up of the kindling of the sacred fire 
down to the time of the Satapatha Brdhmana (XIII. 5.4.19). The 
relations of these eastern people with the Kuru-Panchalas appear 
to have been anything but friendly. Political conflict and cultural 
difference are said to be the probable causes of the rivalry between 
the two sets. 

Still farther off from the old centre of Vedic culture were the 
Magadhas who make their appearance only in later Vedic literature, 
and are regarded throughout as of little importance. Magadha 
corresponds roughly to southern Bihar. The name occurs for the 
first time in the Atharvaveda (V. 22.14), where a wish is expressed 
that the fever may visit the Gandharis, the Mujavants, the Angas 
and the Magadhas, the first two being northern people and the 
latter, people of the east. In the Vratya hymn (AV, XV. 2. 1-4) the 
Magadhas are associated with the Vraty^s. The Yajxirveda includes 
Magadha in the list of victims at Purushamedha. Zimmer regards 
Magadha referred to in the Atharvaveda and Yajurveda as a member 
of the mixed caste born of a Vai^ya and Kshatriya. * But the fact 

259 



THE VEDIC AGE 


that the Sutras and the Aitareya Aranyaka mention Magadha as 
a country shows that in the period of the Yajurveda and Atharva-- 
veda, Magadha meant a resident of the country and not a member 
of the mixed caste — an outcaste born of Pratiloma marriage. The 
authors of the Vedic Index account for the fact of Magadha being 
a minstrel in later days by assuming Magadha as the home of min- 
strelsy, bards from which visited more western lands.^^ This class 
has been taken by later Smriti texts as belonging to a separate caste, 
inventing a story of the inter-marriage of castes for their origin. 
The dislike of the Magadhas, which may go back to the times of 
the Rigveda, was probably due to their not being wholly Brahma- 
nized. 

The Ahgas, unknown to the Rigveda, are mentioned in the 
Athavvaveda (V. 22) as noted above. There is nothing in the Vedic 
texts to indicate their location beyond the fact that they were 
people of the east; but as in later times their settlements were 
on the rivers Son and the Ganges, it may be presumed that their 
earliest seat also was in the same region. They have been associated 
with the Magadhas in some texts. There is no evidence in Vedic 
literature for Pargiter’s view that the Ahgas and Magadhas were 
non-Aryan peoples that came overseas to eastern India. Olden- 
berg, however, thinks that these tribes were the earlier Aryan 
immigrants. Confirmation for this may be found in the Puranic 
evidence which speaks of the Ikshvakus and Videhas being of the 
same stock and as inhabiting the country since Rigvedic times. 

The Magadha is brought into close connection with the Vratya in 
the mystical hymn of the Atharvaveda where he is celebrated as a 
type of the supreme power in the universe. The Yajurveda in- 
cludes the Vratya in the list of victims at Purushamedha (human 
sacrifice). The Vratyas were regarded as outcastes, and the Athar- 
vaveda, Panchavimsa Brahmana^ and the Sutras describe a certain 
rite intended to secure for them admission into the Brahmai>a fold. 
The Vratyas were a nomadic tribe (Vrdta) and neither studied the 
Vedas, nor ploughed the land, nor traded. Their nomad life is 
further suggested by their going about in rough wagons, with herds 
of goats, wearing turbans and wielding a particular kind of bow. 

Because the later Dharmasutras describe the Vratya as an 
outsider, a man of mixed origin and of peculiar dress and habits, 
Roth, Whitney, Bloomfield, Chanda, and others regard the Vratya 
as non- Ary an. The early Vedic texts do not support this view. 
The Vratyas, though uninitiated, spoke the speech of the initiated. 
Their speech, though Aryan, had apparently resembled Prakrit 
rather than Vedic Sankrit, as they softened hard consonants. The 
Sutras mention arhants and yaudhas among the Vratyas, correspond- 
ing respectively to Brahmanas and Kshatriyas in the Brahmanical 
hierarchy. These particulars, coupled with the fact that they were 

260 



ARYAN SEriTJEMprrS IN INDIA 

allowed to become members of the Brahmai^a community by per- 
forming a specific ritual, evidently show that the Vratyas were not 
non- Aryans but were Aryans outside the sphere of Brahmana culture. 

Their location cannot be indicated with certainty. Their life 
and habits would suggest them to be nomadic western tribes beyond 
the Sarasvati. There are, however, certain indications in the Sutras 
which definitely connect the Vratyas with the Magadha so that the 
conclusion that some Vratyas were dwellers in Magadha is irresis- 
tible. 

Vanga, from which Bengal proper receives its designation, is 
not found in early Vedic literature. The Aitareya Ar any aka (II. 1.1) 
mentions Vaiigas, Vagadhas, and Cheras as birds, which probably 
means that they were non-Aryans speaking languages not intelligible 
to the Aryans. Vagadha in the text appears to be a misreading for 
Magadha, as both were neighbours. Vahgas were residents of 
Vafiga or Eastern Bengal. The name also occurs in the Baudhdyana 
Dharma^sutra. 

The tribes mentioned above occupied the first two of the five 
divisions, viz. the Middle and Eastern regions, mentioned in the 
Aitareya Brahmana. In the Dakshinadis, or the Southern region, 
Satvants alone are mentioned in the Aitareya Brdhmatia. But besides 
them there were Vidarbhas, Nishadhas, and Kuntis. 

The Satvants have been mentioned as the name of a people be- 
longing to the south who were the subjects of the Bhoja kings. 
These people W’^ere subjected to regular raids by the Bharatas, and 
the Satapatha Brahmana (XIII. 5.4.21) refers to the defeat of the 
Satvants by king Bharata who took away their horse prepared for 
the Asvamedha. The Satapatha Brahmana (VIII. 5.4.11)) further 
indicates that these Satvants lived near Bharata’s kingdom, i.e. 
near the Ganga and Yamuna. They seem to have moved farther 
south by the time of the Aitareya Brahmana which places them 
in the southern region beyond the Madhyadesa, probably beyond 
the river Chambal (Charmanavati).^^ Puraa^as corroborate the 

close relation of the Bhojas and Satvants who have been spoken of 
as the offshoots of the Yadu family. 

Vidarbha is known through its king Bhima, mentioned in the 
Aitareya Brahmana (VII. 34) as having received instruction about 
the substitute for the Soma from Parvata and Narada. The Vidar- 
bha kingdom was said to be famous for its special breed of hounds, 
which killed tigers {Jaim Up, Brd, 11.440). Vidarbha, as is well 
known, corresponds to modern Berar. Lassen places Vidarbha along 
the Satpura hills to the north-west of Berar.^® The Upanishads 
refer to Bhargava, a sage of Vidarbha, a contemporary of AsvaH- 
yana and to Vaidarbhi Koun^inya. Kun^ina, the capital of Vidarbha, 
has been identified with the modern Kaui?<Jinyapura on the bank 
of the Wardha in the Chandur taluk of Amraoti.®-^ 

261 



THE yEDIC AGE 

The ^atapatha Brdhmana (III. 3.2.1, 2) mentions the term 
Naishidha as an epithet of Na^a, a king of the south. The later 
form of the name is Naishadha. The Nishadhas, residents of the 
Nishadha country, were quite distinct from the Nishadas with whom 
they are often confounded. ‘‘Nishada^ ^ was a general term used for a 
non-Aryan tribe, whereas the Nishadhas, in all probability belonged 
to the Aryan fold. King Nala of Nishadha is a celebrated figure in 
the Mahdbharata and the Puranas. The location of the Nishadha 
country is not known with certainty, though it may be assumed to 
be contiguous to Vidarbha. 

Under the Pratichyas or Westerners come the Nichyas and 
Apachyas, as also Bahikas and Ambashthas. The Nichya occurs as 
the designation of certain tribes of the Punjab and Sind. Nothing is 
known about the Apachyas. The Bahikas are spoken of as people of the 
west of the Punjab in the Satapatha Brdhmana (1. 7. 3. 8) which 
refers to their calling Agni by the name of Bhava, as distinct from 
the Prachyas who called it 6arva. The Ambashthas, corresponding 
to the Abastanoi of Arrian, who were settled on the lower Asiknl in 
Alexander’s time, are referred to in the Aitarcya Brdhmana (VIII. 
21). Their king is stated to have been consecrated with the Aindra 
Mahabhisheka. They were probably in the Punjab in Vedic times. 

Finally we come to the Udichyas or Northerners, among whom 
are the Uttarakurus, the Uttaramadras, Mujavants, Mahavrishas, 
Gandharis, Bahlikas, Kesins, Kekayas, and Kambojas. 

The Udichya dialect was celebrated for its purity; hence Brah- 
manas flocked to the north for purposes of study. The northern 
dialect resembled that of the Kuru-Panchala, and the superiority 
of the Brahmanas of the north is indicated by the victory of one of 
their spokesmen over a Kuru-Panchala Brahmana in a debate. The 
celebrity enjoyed by the north in academic matters is further cor- 
roborated by the fact that Taxila became a famous seat of learning, 
and classical Sanskrit was first developed in Kashmir.^ 

The Uttarakurus, along with the Uttaramadras, are located be- 
yond the Himalayas. Though regarded as mythical in the epic 
and later literature, the Uttarakurus still appear as a historical 
people in the Aitareya Brahmans (VIII, 23) which states that one 
Janantapi Atyarati was anxious to conquer the country of the Ut- 
tarakurus, called the land of the gods. Zimmer places the Uttara- 
kurus in Kashmir to the north of Kurukshetra, and probably they 
were an offshoot of the Kurus. 

The Madra people were divided into two sections, the Uttara 
(Northern) Madras and the Southern Madras or the Madras proper. 
The Uttaramadras alone appear in early Vedic literature, and they 
dwelt, as already stated, beyond the Himalayas, probably in the 
land of Kashmir. The mention of Madragara 6aungayani as an 
ancient Vedic teacher shows the Madras as experts in Vedic learning. 

262 



ARYAN SETTUEMElJfrS IN INDIA 

a fact which is confirmed by the Satapatha Brdhmana which states 
that sages of Northern India repaired to the Madra country to study 
the Vedas. The Brihaddranyaka Upanishad refers to Kapya Pataii- 
chala as living among the Madras. The territory of the Southern 
Madras roughly corresponds to Sialkot and its adjoining districts 
in the Central Punjab which were known as the Madradesa as late 
as the time of Guru Govind Singh.^® In Buddhist times the Madras 
dwelt between the Chenab and Ravi. 

The Mujavants have been mentioned in the Atharvaveda along 
with the Mahavrishas, Gandharis, and Bahlikas as dwelling far 
away and to whom fever is to be relegated. The Yajurveda also 
speaks of the Mujavants as a distant people. If the people took 
their name from Mujavant, a mountain in the Himalayas, which 
seems to be quite likely, they were a hill-tribe in the Himalayas. 

The Mahavrishas appear to be northerners in the vicinity of 
the other tribes along with whom they are mentioned, though 
their exact location cannot be ascertained. The Chhdndogya Upa- 
nishad places king Raikva-parna in the Mahavrisha country, and 
the Jairninlya Upanishad Brdhmana mentions Hritsvasaya as the 
king of the Mahavrishas. 

The Gandharis, referred to in the Rigveda, are mentioned also 
in the Atharvaveda (as already stated) and in the Srauta Sutras. 
They appear apparently as a despised people in the Atharvaveda. 
In later times, however, the angle of vision of the people of the 
Madhyadesa changed, and Gandhara became the famous resort of 
scholars for instruction in the Vedas and Vidyas. The Aitareya 
Brdhmana (VII. 34) mentions Nagnajit, a king of Gandhara, 
among Vedic teachers who propagated the Soma cult, which shows 
that Gandhara was not excluded from Vedic Aryans. From the 
various references to Gandhara in Indian literature it appears that 
the boundaries of the country varied at different periods in its 
history. 

The Bahlikas, mentioned along with the three foregoing peoples, 
were a contiguous northern tribe, their name also suggesting ‘^the 
outsiders.” Roth and Weber were inclined to place this tribe in 
Iran, but there is no need to assume any Iranian influence, for we 
find that Bahlika is the name of a Kuru prince (Sat. Br., XII. 9. 
3. 3).^^ 

Kesin is the name of a tribe found in the Satapatha Brdhmana 
(XI. 8.4.6) where their king is said to be studying how to avert a 
bad omen at the sacrifices. They were probably a branch of the 
Panchalas.^® 

The Satapatha Brdhmcma (X. 6. T. 2) and the Chhdndogya 
Upanishad (V. 11. 4) mention Asvapati, king of the Kekayas, as 
a man of learning who instructed a number of Brahmaoas. The 
Kekayas in later days were settled in the north-west between the 

263 



THE.VEDIC AGE 


Sindhu and the Vitasta, and probably occupied the same territory 
in the Vedic age. According to the Puranic tradition the Kekayas 
were descended from Anu,®® which is confirmed by the fact that 
the Anus of the Rigveda dwelt in the same territory in which we 
find the Kekayas. 

The earliest mention of Kamboja occurs in the Vamsa Br&h- 
mana of the Samaveda where a teacher Kamboja Aupamanyava 
is referred to. The sage Upamanyu, mentioned in the Rigveda 
(I. 102. 9), is in all probability the father of this Kamboja teacher. 
From the fact that Kamboja Aupamanyava is stated to be a pupil 
of Madragara, Zimmer infers that the Kambojas and the Madras 
were close neighbours in north-western India. The speech of the 
Kambojas is referred to by Yaska as differing from other Aryans, 
and Grierson sees in this reference the Iranian affinities of the 
Kambojas;'’® but the fact that Kamboja teachers were reputed for 
their Vedic learning shows them to have been Vedic Aryans, so 
that Kamboja was an Aryan settlement. Later on Kambojas 
settled to the north-west of the Indus, and were the Kambujiyas 
of the old Persian inscriptions. 

There is some difference of opinion as to the location of the 
Kambojas. Rhys Davids places them to the extreme north-west 
of India, S. K. Aiyangar and P. N. Banerji in a country near 
Sind, Raychaudhuri in the Rawalpindi and Peshawar districts, 
Smith along the mountains of Tibet or Hindu Kush, and Eliot in 
Tibet or its border.^’ The latest attempt at locating the Kambo- 
jas is by Jayacbandra who, after discussing the problems afresh, 
identifies Kamboja with Badakhshan and the Pamirs, and Moti- 
chandra has further supported the identification.'’® 

There are various other minor tribes mentioned in Vedic 
texts, but we know very Little of them.'’® 

Finally, we come to the semi-Aryan, non-Aryan and barbar- 
ous tribes. The Aitareya Brahmana mentioned the Andhras, 
Pundras, Sabaras, Pulindas and Mutibas as being Dasyus, i.e. out- 
castes living on the borders of the Aryan settlements. These 
people are said to be born of the fifty eldest sons of Viivamitra 
through their father’s curse on their refusal to accept the adop- 
tion of gunahiSepa. They were thus outside the Aryan fold. The 
Andhras, Sabaras and Pulindas are known from the Mahdbharata 
to have been tribes of the Deccan. 

The Andhras originally lived between the Krishna and the 
Godavari.^'’ Andhras in modem times are the Telugu-speaking 
people of the Deccan. . ' 

The Pupdras, whose name occurs also in the Sutras, have been 
located in Bengal and Bihar by the Mahdbharata. They were 
situated in North Bengal and gave their name to their capital 



ARYAN SETTLEMENTS IN INDIA 

town Pun^ravardhana. The PuT:i^ras are probably the ancestors 
of the Puros, an aboriginal caste in Bengal.^^ 

The exact location of the Sabaras is not known. They can 
be identified with the Suari of Pliny and the Sabarae of Ptolemy 
and are probably ancestors of the Savaralu or Sauras of the Viza- 
gapatam hills, the Savaris of the Gwalior territory and the sava- 
ges on the frontiers of Orissa.'^® 

The name of Pulindas does not appear in the parallel list 
given in the Sdnkhdyana ^rauta-sutra. They are found along with 
the Andhras at the time of Asoka. Their capital, according to the 
Mahdhhdrata, probably lay to the south-east of the Bhilsa region. 

The territory of the Mutibas has not yet been located. Ray- 
chaudhuri thinks it not altogether improbable t^at the Muchipas, 
a variant of Mutibas, are the people who appear in the Mdrkandeya 
Purdna under the designation of Mushika, and locates the latter 
on the banks of the river Musi on which Hyderabad now stands.^"^ 
The name Mlechchha, found in the Satapatha Brdhmana, is 
used in the sense of a barbarian in speech who uses '^he^lavo^' for 
^‘he’rayah.'’' This shows that these barbarians were Aiyan speakers 
who employed a Prakrit form of speech. 

The Nisbada mentioned in the later Sathhitas and Brahmanas ap- 
pears to be, not the name of any particular tribe, but the generic 
term for non-Aiy^an tribes who were not under Aryan control. 
Nishadas have been distinguished from the other four Varnas. Weber 
considered the Nishadas to be settled aborigines. The Smritis explain 
the Nishadas as the off-spring of a Brahmana father and a Sudra 
mother. The epics represent the Nishadas as having their settlements 
in the Vindhya and Satpura ranges, and it seems that during the 
post-Rigvedic period also they inhabited mountainous tracts. 

The Rigveda repeatedly refers to the attacks on the aborigines. 
They are called Krishna-tvach (black skins) metaphorically. Kuya- 
vach (evil speaking), a demon slain by Indra, probably personifies 
the barbarian opponents. Mridhravach (speaking insultingly) is also 
similarly used for denoting barbarians in the Rigveda. Tf Balbutha, 
called a Dasa, were the son of an aboriginal mother or an aboriginal 
himself, his reference as giving gifts to the singer indicates the esta- 
blishment of friendly relations between the Aryans and Dasas. 

The above review of the Aryan settlements would make it clear 
that the period of the later Sathhitas, Brahmanas, Upanishads, and 
Sutras is characterized by a spirit of adventure and expansion, 
and the advancing Aryans were spreading in every direction, coloniz- 
ing the east, south, and north. The Gangetic Doab was completely 
occupied by the Aryans and the adventurous Bharatas and Videghas 
led expeditions along the Yamuna, the Sarasvati, and the Sadanira. 
Towards the east Kosala, Videha, Magadha, and Aiiga came under 
Aryan occupation during this period. In the north and the north- 

265 



THE VEDIC AGE 


west, we come across the Uttarakurus and the Uttaramadras, 
Bahlikas, Mahavrishas, and Mujavants, showing the expansion 
along Kashmir and the Himalayas. Towards the south the Vin- 
dhya appears for the first time in the Kaushltaki Upanishad (II. 8), 
and the Kuntis and Vitahavyas seem to have penetrated further 
south, and the Narmada and Vidarbha also were within the Aryan 
fold. 

The disappearance of the Sarasvati referred to in the Pancha- 
vimsa Brdhmana (XXV. 10. 6) is an important geographical land- 
mark in this period. Tlie main centre of the life of the period is 
Kurukshetra in the country of the Kuru-Panchalas, bounded by the 
Khandava on the south, Turghna on the north, and Parinah on the 
west. It is noteworthy that the sphere of civilization is gradually 
shifting eastward and its localization in the region to the east of 
the land of five rivers is an accomplished fact. The Punjab and 
the West not only recede in importance, but the tribes of the west 
are looked upon with disapproval in the ^atapatha and Aitareya 
Brdhraanas. There has been a change and regrouping of tribes of 
the Rigvedic period, and many new tribes emerge during this period. 
The Bharatas do not occupy the premier position, but are merged in 
the Kurus who, with their allies the Panchalas, are the tribe par ex- 
cellence, With Vasas and Usinaras, the Kuru-Panchalas occupy the 
Madhyadesa. The Uttarakurus and the Uttaramadras lay to the 
north beyond the Himalayas, and Satvats to the south. To the east 
Kosala, Videha, Magadha, and Anga rise into prominence. The 
Andhras, Pundras, Mutibas, Pulindas, and iSabaras, as also the Nisha- 
das, are the outcast tribes which were not fully Brahmanized. 

Tlie territory comprised within the sphere of Aryan influence 
down to the period of the Upanishads may thus be roughly described 
as the whojie of India to the north of the Narmada, and some regions 
even to the south of that river. 

GENERAL REFERENCES 

MACDONELL, A. A., ;;nd KEIllI. A.B.: Vcdic Index. Two vols. London. 1912. 
OLDENBERG, H.: Buddha (Enf?. Translation by W. Hoey). London. 1882. 

ZIMMER, H.: Altindlsches Lchen Berlin. 1879. 

1. Hilk^randt (Ved. Myth., I, pp. 99 IT; III, pp. 372 ft.) thinks that it is Arghandab 
in a few places. 

2. Macdonell, History of Sanskrit Literature, p. 142; Keith, CHI, I, p. 80. 

3. AL, p. 17; Chakladar, MR, Jan. 1930, p. 41; Raychaudhuri, Ind. Antiquities, 
p. 51. 

4. Zur Liticratur und Geschichte des Weda, pp. 138 ff.; AL, pp. 11, 12; MR, Jan, 
1930, p. 41. 

5. JRAS, 1917, pp. 93--6; Raychaudhuri, Ind. Antiquities, p. .51. 

0. Nirukta, VI. 26; IX. 26. ‘ 

7. Law, Rivers, p. 10. 

8. Ray, JBORS, March, 1928. 

8a. For arguments against this view, cf. Ch. X, Appendix, p. 217. 

9. Cf. Ved. Ind., I, p. 468; CHI I- p. 79 n.l, Hopkins, JAOS. 19; pp. 19-28; Keith, 
CHI, I, p, 79; Winternitz, HIL, I, p. 63; Pischel and Geldner, Ved. Stud., II, 
p. 218; III, p. 152. 


266 



ARYAN SETTLEMENTS IN INDIA 

10. Brunnhofer, Arischc UrzGii^ 1910; Hertpl, Indo-Germ. Forchuvg, 41, p. 188; 
Hiising, MAGW, xlvi; Hillebrandt, Ved. Myth, I, pp. 98 ff.; Childe, Aryans, 
p. 32: Winternitz, HIL, I, pp. 63-4. 

11. CHI, I, pp. 78-9. 

12. CHI, I, p. 79. 

13. SEE, XXXII, pp. 61 fl.; Ind.ische Alterthumskunde, I, p. 883; AL, pp. 22 ff., 
Ved. bid., II, p. 432. 

14. RV. IV. 42. 8, 9 and Sayana’s Commentary. 

15. The Ait. Br. lakes the five to be god.s, men, gandharvas, and apsarasos, snakes, 
and the fathers, whereas Yaska thinks that gandharvas. fathers, gods, asuras, 
and rakshasas are meant. Aiipamanyavas and Sayana hold that the four varnas 
and the Ni.shadas made up the five. Roth and Geldner take the expression to 
indicate the people of the whole earth. 

16. JAOS, 15, pp. 258 ff. 

17. Cf. Diitt, Aryanisation of India, p. 104. 

18. Bauer ji Sastri, JBORS, 12, p. 253. 

18a. Tlie Dasas and Dasyus have been fully discussed above in Ch. VIII, p. 159. 

19. See Ch. XI. p. 

20. Some Aspects of Ancient Indian Ciiltiu'e. p. 34. 

21. Dey, GD, p. 104. 

22. Ved. bid,, IT, p. 422. 

23. Kaychaudhui i, PHAI, p. 20. 

24. Ibid. 

25. Ved. bid., I, p. 469. 

26. Kaychaudhuri, PHAI. n. 59. 

27. bid. Stud., I, pp. 212-3. 

28. El, 1921, p. 16; Majumdar. CAG, p. 668. 

29. bid. Stud., I, pp. 212-3. 

30. Ved. bid., II, p. 117. 

31. JRAS, 1908, p. 852^ 

32. Kaychaudhuri, FHAI, p, 76. 

33. Cf. Law, Tribes, p. 100. 

34. Kaychaudhuri, PHAI, p. 74. 

35. Franke, Pali urid Sanskrit, pp. 88, 89. 

36. Kaychaudhuri, PHAI, p. 54. 

37. Vahllka and Valhlka appear as variants of Bahlika. The Mahdbhdreta and the 
Puranas locate the u ih'e in the nciglibourhood of Gandhai’a and Punjab. 

38. Bhanclarkar identifies the Kesis wdlh tlic Kassis or Kassites (Some Aspects of 
Ancient Indian Cullxire, p. 3). 

39. Pargiter, AIHT, pp. 109, 264. 

40. JRAS, 1911, pp. 801-2. 

41. Cf. Law, Tribes, pp. 2-3. 

42. JVPHAS, XVI, pp. 43-6. 

43. Such e.g., are the Rusamas. Sviknas, Spansus, Kai'askaras, Saphalas, etc. 

44. ZDMG, 56, pp. 657 ff. 

4.5. Bhandarkar, ABORI, XII, pp. 104, 105. 

46. Kaychaudhuri, PHAI. p. 79: Dutt. Arnanisation of India, p. 69. 

47. PHAI, p. 80. 


267 




BOOK FOUR 

HISTORICAL TRADITIONS 




CHAPTER XIV 


TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST 
TIME TO THE ACCESSION OF PARIKSHIT 
1. SOURCES OF INFORMATION 

Our sources for the traditional history from the earliest times to 
the accession of Parikshit are mainly the Puranas, though the Mahd- 
bhdrata and the RCimdyana occasionally give dynastic lists and deal 
with traditional accounts. General observations on the Puranas and 
the Epics will be found in the next volume. Here it is intended to 
give only a brief introductory note dealing with the historical value of 
the Puraoas. 

The Puranas, in their present recension, can hardly be placed 
earlier than the Gupta period. Thus they received their final fonn 
more than 2,000 years after the earliest events related by them. Be- 
sides this distance in time, the traditional account, contained in the 
Puranas, is vitiated by exaggeration, mythological details, pronounced 
religious bias, and the divergences in the texts of the different 
Puranas. These have been subjected to various modifications, revi- 
sions, etc. at different periods and no “definite" text of the Puranas is 
available. In spite of these obvious defects the Puranic account 
may not be regarded as wholly unreliable. It is likely that the 
royal genealogies and ancient ballads of kings and heroes were 
preserved from very early times by the Siitas. It is expressly laid 
down in the Vdyu Purdna (1. 31-2) that “the Suta's special duty, 
as perceived by good men of old, was to preserve the genealogies 
of gods, rishis (sages), and most glorious kings, and the traditions 
of great men.” These accounts probably formed the basis of the 
original Purana, from which the genealogical texts of the existing 
puranas were ultimately derived. Pargiter holds, on the basis of 
Indian tradition, that this original Purana was composed more or 
less about the same time when the Vedic texts received their final 
form.' Although this view may be justly questioned, the existence 
of a Purana text at a very early age is not improbable. 

In any case there is hardly any doubt that the royal genea- 
logies in the Puranas embody many genuine historical traditions 
of great antiquity which have not been otherwise preserved. It 
has also been pointed out by Pargiter that the Puranic account is 
corroborated in many respects by Vedic texts, which contain con- 
temporary historical data. A comparative study of the Puranas 
and the Vedic texts shows that the- former, though reduced to 
writing at a comparatively late period, embody the earliest tradi- 
tional history, and much of their material is old and valuable. 

271 



THE VEDIC AGE 


When we find Puranic accounts corroborated by the Vedic evi- 
dence, it is but legitimate to take their testimony as valid even in 
matters on which the Rigveda is silent. 

That the kernel of both the Rdmdyana and the Mahdbhdrata 
embodies historical facts is also now generally accepted. The 
epic details, embellishments, exaggerations and flights of fancy, 
evident in the Rdmdyana and the Mahdbhdrata^ have been kept 
distinct from the Puranic account of traditional history in this 
chapter. Besides their central story, the Rdmdyana and the Mahd- 
bhdrata contain some dynastic lists and accounts. The Great Epic 
itself implies that it was composed after the Puranas. The genea- 
logical accounts in the Mahdbhdrata are peculiar in that they arc 
partly in prose and partly in verse, and do not appear to be ancient. 
The Rdmdyana genealogy of the solar dynasty runs counter to the 
Puranic genealogy; but as the latter has been corroborated by 
other authorities, the Puranic genealogy is to be accepted in prefe 
rence to that in the Rdmdyana. 

2. CHRONOLOGICAL SCHEME OF TRADITIONAL HISTORY 
ACCORDING TO THE PURANAS 

The Bharata War is the central landmark in Indian traditional 
history, and the fixing of the date of that event will give us a start- 
ing point in settling dates of events occurring before and after it. 
We shall, therefore, first of all, try in brief to determine the date 
of the Bharata War. 

According to the Aihole inscription of Pulakesin II (seventh 
century A.D.) the Bharata War took place in 3102 B.C., which is 
the starting point of the Kaliyuga era according to the astronomical 
tradition represented by Aryabhata But Fleet has pointed out that 
the reckoning was not founded in Vedic times; it was first started 
about 3,500 years after the time for purposes of calculation, and was 
not known to astronomers before Aryabhata.^ Another school 
of Hindu astronomers and historians, represented by Vriddha-Garga, 
Varahamihira and Kalhana, places the Bharata War 653 years after 
the Kaliyuga era, i.e. in 2449 B.C.^ These two schools thus pre- 
sent conflicting views, and as they are based on a hypothetical 
reckoning of a late date, we can hardly attach much importance to 
them. 

Astronomical references in the Mahdbhdrata itself about the 
position of the Nakshatras and planets have been utilized for deter- 
mining the date of the war. But, the same data have yielded va- 
rious divergent results.^ As a matter of fact, the statements in the 
Epic are conflicting and self-contradictory, so that in order to arrive 
at some conclusion it is necessary to reject certain statements or 
their implications as later interpolations or mere exaggerations. No 
satisfactory and acceptable result can be arrived at from these data. 

27 ? 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARUEST TIME 

On the basis of the Puranic tradition about the number of kings 
that flourished in different dynasties between king Adhisimakrishija 
(great-grandson of Janamejaya) and the coronation of Mahapadma 
Nanda, Pargiter places the Bharata War in c. 950 B.C. According 
to him 26 reigns intervened between these kings, and allowing a 
period of 18 years per reign, and taking the accession of Mahapadma 
in 382 B.C., the period of Adhisimalqrishoa would be (26x18-1- 
382=) 850 B.C. And adding a hundred years for the reigns of 
intermediate kings between Yudhishthira and Adhisimakrishna Par- 
giter arrives at (850-(-100=) 950 B.C. as the date of the Bharata 
War.6 

Pargiter's date is contradicted by the statement in the Puranas 
and the Mahdbhdrata that between the birth of Parikshit and the 
coronation of Mahapadma, there elapsed a period of 1,015 (or 1,050) 
years.^^ This brings the date of the Bharata War to (1015-1-382=) 
1397 B.C. Though the number of kings mentioned in the Puranas 
during this period does not appear to be correct, as it gives an ab- 
normally high average regnal period per generation, the figure men- 
tioning the period (viz. 1015 or 1050) seems to represent a fairly 
reliable tradition, especially as the date it gives for the Bharata War 
(c. 1400 B.C.) is corroborated by a consideration of the Vaih- 
^ivali list of teachers. We may, therefore, take c. 1400 B.C. as the 
provisional date for the Bharata War, and the event must have taken 
place between this date and 1000 B.C. in round numbers. ' 

Now working backwards from the earlier date, the age of Manu 
Vaivasvata, who flourished, according to the genealogies prepared 
on the basis of traditional accounts, 95 generations before the Bha- 
rata War, can be put as (95x18-1-1400=) 3110 B.C., taking one 
generation to average 18 years (as we have to deal with very long 
genealogies extending over 90 generations, we would be erring on 
the side of caution if we assumed 18 years as the average reign). 
This date, viz. 3110 B.C., curiously enough, approaches 3102 B.C. 
which has been taken as the beginning of the hsrpothetical Kali age 
for astronomical calculations. There is no doubt that the date 
3102 B.C. signifies some important and epoch-making event in the 
traditional history of India. If it denotes the period of the beginning 
of the rule by Manu Vaivasvata, that means that it stands for the 
date of the Great Flood recorded in the Satapatha Brdhmana and 
other accounts, at which Manu was the saviour of humanity. The 
devastating Flood undoubtedly was the most important landmark in 
the history of the ancient world, and common flood legends suggest 
that the same event has been described in Indian, Hebrew, and 
Babylonian accounts. Tlie Flood in Mesopotamia is generally held 
to have occurred about 3100 B.C.®® The Flood in India probably 
also occurred at the same time, and the date 3102 B.C., supposed 

271 



THE VEDIC AGE 


to be the beginning of the Kali era, may, therefore, commemorate 
this event. 

The year 3102 B.C. thus represents the age of Manu, the first 
traditional king in India. Yayati, who is fifth in descent from Manu 
and figures also in the Rigveda, thus flourished (18X5:=:::) 90 years 
after Manu or in (3100 — 90--) 3010 B.C. Mandhatri, coming after 
twenty generations, has to be placed in (3100— 20xl^l--O 2740 B.C. 
The period of Arjuna Kartavirya, Visvamitra, Jamadagni, Parasu- 
rama, and Harischandra can be put between (3100 — 31x18):=) 2542 
B.C., and (3100—33x18=) 2506 B.C. or roughly between 2550 and 
2500 B.C. Sagara of Aj^odhya and Dushyanta and Bharata of Hasti- 
napura flourished between (3100-41x18=) 2362 B.C. and 3100 — 44 
Xl8=) 2308 B.C. or roughly between 2350 and 2300 B.C. Rama flou- 
rished 65 generations after Manu, i.e. in (3100 — 65x18 = ) 1930 B.C. 
or roughly in 1950 B . C. and the famous Dasarajna war which occurred 
about three or four generations after P^ama, in c. 1900 B.C. These 
dates will, of course, have to be lowered by 400 years if the Bharata 
War is placed in c. 1000 B.C. 

3. PRE-FLOOD TRADITIONS AND THE DAWN OF HISTORY 

Like the dynastic lists in Sumer and Egypt, the Indian lists also 
record pre-diluvian dynasties, though as may naturally be expected 
in such accounts, there is a large mixture of myths and legends. 
They begin with the mythical king, Manu Svayambhuva, who is 
said to have been born of Brahma, and had from Satarupa, the 
half-female form of his body, two sons, Priyavraia and Uttanapada, 
and three daughters. These daughters are the themes of very ela- 
borate legends w^hich connect them with the gods, sages, sacrifices, 
etc. Svayambhuva Manu, also known as Viraj, was the lord of the 
first Manu cycle. 

The Vdyii Purdiia mentions Ananda as a Brahina (supreme 
ruler) w^ho was a predecessor of Manu Svayambhuva. This Ananda 
is said to have established the Varnas (castes), formulated their 
duties, and also established the institution of marriage; but these 
fell into abeyance in a short time and were revived by Manu Sva- 
yambhuva. Manu Svayambhuva’s capital lay on the bank of the 
river Sarasvati. He is said to have subdued all enemies and be- 
came the first king of the earth. Manu Svarochisha, the second 
Manu, was the son of Svayambhuva’s daughter Akuti. Priyavrata, 
the eldest son of Manu Svayambhuva, is said to be the first of the 
Kshatriyas. Three of his sons renounced the world in child-hood in 
order to perform penance, and became Manus in the next Manvan- 
taras. These were Uttama, ^Tamasa, and Raivata, respectively the 
third, fourth, and fifth Manus. 

Uttanapada, the second son of Svayambhuva Manu, had three 
sons, Dhruva, Kirtivat, and Uttama. The story of the celebrated 

214 



TRADITIONAL lUSTORY FROM, THE EARLIEST TIME 

boy devotee Dhruva, who on account of the insult offered him by 
his step-mother, the favourite queen of Uttanapada, left the world 
for penance and secured boons from the Lord Vishnu, is well-known 
to every devout Hindu. Dhruva was succeeded by Prachinagarbha. 
Chakshusha in this line was the sixth Manu. His grandson Vena 
was a very wicked and tyrannous king. There was a general rebel- 
lion against him and he was deposed and killed. His son Prithu, 
celebrated as the first consecrated king, from whom the earth re- 
ceived its name Pidthvi, was enthroned his successor. He levelled 
the whole earth, clearing it of ups and downs, and encouraged culti- 
vation, cattle-breeding, commerce, and building of cities and villages. 
The oath that he had to swear would compare favourably with the 
oath any constitutional sovereign of England has to take.'^ Fifth in 
descent from Prithu was Daksha, whose daughter’s grandson, Manu 
Vaivasvata, saved humanity from the deluge which occurred at 
this time. 

4. THE FLOOD AND MANU VAIVASVATA 
(c. 3100 B.C.) 

The earliest and the shortest Indian account describing the 
Hood is found in the Satapatha Brdhmana, and there are later em- 
bellished versions in the Mahahhdrata and the Puranas.^ Accord- 
ing to the Satapatha Brdhmana, when Manu was washing his hands 
in the morning, a small fish came into his hands along with the water. 
The fish sought protection from Manu, saying, ‘‘Rear me, I will save 
thec.’^ The reason stated was that the small fish was liable to be 
devoured by the larger, and it required protection till it grew up. 
It asked to be kept in a jar, and later on, when it outgrew that, in 
a pond, and finally in the sea. Manu acted accordingly. The fish 
forew’^arned M^nu of the forthcoming flood, and advised him to pre- 
pare a ship and enter into it when the flood came. The flood began 
to rise at the appointed hour, and Manu entered the ship. The 
fish then swam up to him; he tied the rope of the ship to its horn, 
and thus passed swiftly to the yonder northern mountain. There, 
Manu wa.s directed to ascend the mountain after fastening the ship 
to a tree and disembark after the Water had subsided. Accordingly, 
he gradually descended, and hence the slope of the northern moun- 
tain is called Manorar^ataranain or Manu’s descent. The waters 
swept aw’^ay all the three heavens, and Manu alone was saved. 

Manu Vaivasvata is said to be the originator of the human race, 
and all the dynasties mentioned in the Puranas spring from him. 
He framed rules and laws of government, and collected a sixth of 
the produce of the land as a tax to meet administrative expenses. 

Manu is stated to have been the father of nine valiant sons, be- 
sides the eldest, who is represented to have had a dual personality 
as the m.ale Tla and female Ila. There is a great divergence in the 

275 



THE VEDIC AGE 


names of the nine sons and their order in the different accounts. 
According to the collated text, suggested by Pargiter,^° the names 
are: Ikshvaku, Nabhaga, Dhyishta, Saryati, Narishyanta, Praihsu, 
Nabhagodishta (or Nabhanedishtha), Karusha, and Pfishadhra. Of 
these sons only four are important as being the originators of im- 
portant lines. Ikshvaku, the eldest, had his capital at Ayodhya, 
and his son Vikukshi founded the Aikshvaka (or the Solar) line. 
The location of the Nabhagas, descended from Nabhaga, is uncertain. 
They probably reigned in the midlands of the Gangetic Doab, and 
included Rathitara from whom came the Rathitaras who were Ksha- 
triyan Brahmapas. The Nabhaga dynasty played practically no part 
in traditional history, and probably disappeared under the early 
Aila conquests. From Dhrishta came the Dharshtaka Kshatriyas 
who probably ruled over Vahika in the Punjab. Nothing further is 
known about them. Their social position is interesting to the stu- 
dent of social history as they are sometimes -called Brahmapas, 
sometimes Kshatriyas and sometimes even Vaisyas, indicating the 
fluidity of castes at this period in our history. 6aryati was the founder 
of the Saryatas who ruled in Anarta. The Baryatas were one of 
the earliest Aryan tribes to come in contact with Gujarat, which re- 
ceived its ancient name from Anarta, the son of Baryati. There is 
much Qd^usion about the genealogy of Narishyanta, some accounts 
stating the Sakas to be his descendants. Nothing is known about 
the descendants of Pram^u. Nabhagodishta settled in north Bihar, 
and established the Vaisala dynasty which ruled at Vaisali identified 
with Basarh^'' (Muzaflarpur district). From Karusha came the 
Karushas, the determined fighters, who occupied the Karusha coun- 
try — the region round the modern Rewah and eastwards to the river 
Son. P*rishadhra was excluded from any share of the earth because 
he killed his guru’s (preceptor’s) cow. 

From Ila, as the female, who married Budha, was born Puru- 
ravas, the originator of the Aila (or the Lunar) dynasty. From the 
Alias sprang various dynasties such as the Kanyakubjas, Yadavas 
(Haihayas, Andhakas, Vrishpis), Turvasus, Druhyus, Anavas, Pafi- 
chilas, Barhadrathas, Chedis, etc. 

From Ila transformed into a Kimpurusha named Sudyunana, 
sprang the Saudytunnas — ^his three sons Utkala, Gaya, and Vina- 
tasva, who respectively ruled over the Utkala country, Gaya, and 
the eastern regions including the northern Kurus. The Saudyumna 
kingdoms were annexed by the Anavas and Kanyakubjas. 

The early disappearance of the dynastic lists of the kingdoms 
established by Karusha, Nabhaga, Dhrishta, Narishyanta, Praiivlu, 
and Pfishadhra seems to be due to the victorious campaigns led by 
Pururavas, Nahusha and Yayati of the Lunar dynasty, who displac- 
ced all these kingdoms and expanded the Paurava realm. 

276 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARUBST TIME 

5. THE YAYATI PERIOD 
(c. 3000-2750 B.C.) 

1. The Lunar Dynasty 

Pururavas Aila, Ha’s son through Budha or Soma, was the 
progenitor of the celebrated Lunar dynasty. Though the seat of 
the government of the Ailas and the scene of their later activities 
have been placed at Pratishthana^^ by the Puraajas, the origin of the 
Ailas, according to these texts, seems to be connected with the 
Himalayan region. 

Pururavas is said to have ruled over the seven islands and per- 
formed a hundred Asvamedhas. The story of Pururavas and Urva^i 
is too well known to be dealt with here.^^a However, towards the 
end of his reign, Pururavas is said have been intoxicated with power 
and declared war on the Brahmaa;xas, robbed them of their jewels, 
and coveted the golden sacrificial floor of the Nahnisha sages, who 
were performing sacrifice. The sages in revolt killed him and in- 
stalled his eldest son Ayu on the throne. Pururavas was the con- 
temporary of Ikshvaku of the Solar dynasty. The Aila kingdom 
developed quickly under Pururavas. Being checked in their ex- 
pansion to the north by the powerful kingdom of Ayodhya and to 
the south by the war-like Karushas, the Ailas extended their sway 
eastward and north-westward into the Gangetic Doab and Malwa 
and Eastern Rajputana. The expanded realm was divided among 
Pururava’s two sons, Ayu and Amavasu. 

Ayu continued the main line at Pratish^hana, and Amavasu, to 
whose share fell the northern territories in the mid-Gangetic Doab, 
founded the Kanyakubja dynasty. Ayu was friendly towards the 
l^ishis and Brahmaijas. His marriage with Prabha, the daughter of 
a Danava king Svarbhanu, indicates that he held catholic views and 
was a conciliator between Aryas and Danavas. Ayu had five sons, 
only two of whom were important. The eldest, Nahusha, succeeded 
Ayu in the main line at Pratishthana, while the second, Khshatra- 
vyiddha, established himself at Kasi in the east. 

Nahusha was a famous king, a great conqueror, the first man to 
establish a theatre on the earth. The Mahdbharata story of his 
securing the kingdom of Indra, and of tus subsequent fall therefrom 
on account of his arrogance and ill-treatment of Agastya, runs 
counter to many well-established synchronisms and is obviously a 
later invention. ''3 His son and successor Yayati is mentioned in the 
Puratpas and the Mahabhdrata as a Samrdt (emperor) and a great 
conqueror who extended his kingdom far and wide. He reduced all 
Madhyade&i west of Ayodhya and Kanyakubja and north-west as 
far as the Sarasvatl. He also brought under his sway countries towards 
the south, south-east, and west of his territory. The Puraoas and 
the Mahahharata give a detailed account of Yayati’s marriage with 

277 

V,V— 18 , 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Devayani, daughter of Usanas-Sukra, the great Bhargava risiii, and 
Sarmishtha, daughter of king Vrishaparvan of the Asuras. Yayati’s 
marriage with Devayani being the pratiloma marriage, reprehen- 
sible according to later customary law, some excuses have been in- 
vented in justification of it. 

Yayati had five sons. Devayani bore two, Yadu and Turvasu, 
and Sarmishtha three, Anu, Druhyu, and Puru. Yayati divided the 
kingdom among his five sons, placing the youngest son Puru to con- 
tinue the main line, ruling over Madhyade^, the southern half of 
the Ganges-Jumna Doab, with its capital at Pratishthana. The main 
Lunar line hereafter came to be known as Puru Vaihsa or the Pau- 
ravas after Puru. There is a great divergence in the Puranas re- 
garding the territories assigned by Yayati to his sons. Pargiter’s 
collated text^^^ suggests that Yadu, the eldest son, was given terri- 
tories towards the south-west embracing the country watered by 
the rivers Charmanvati (Chambal), Vetravati (Betwa) and Sukti- 
mati (Ken). Turvasu got the south-east territory (round Rewah). 
To Druhyu was assigned the west, i.e. the country west of the Ya- 
muna and north of the Chambal. Anu received the north, i.e. the 
northern portion of the Ganges-Jumna Doab. 

By the time of Puru, the Ailas had thus established seven king- 
doms,, viz. Pratishthana, Yadava, Turvasu, Anava, Druhyu (i.e. the 
kingdoms of the five sons of Yayati), and the kingdoms of Kanya- 
kubja and Kasi. Puru, though the youngest, got the ancestral 
kingdom of Pratishthana through obedience to his father. He was 
succeeded by his son Janamejaya. 

The Kanyakubjas and KasTs, the subsections of the Lunar dy- 
nasty, are not noted for any remarkable achievements or persona- 
lities during the period under review. Yadu, the eldest son of 
Yayati, founded the Yadavas, the first Lunar dynasty to rise into 
prominence. They first destroyed the Rakshasa power in Gujarat* 
Kathiawar, who overthrew the Saryatas there. Only Kroshfri and 
Sahasrajit, among Yadu’s sons, are important, for with them the 
Yadavas branched off respectively into the Yadavas and Haihayas. 

Yadava Chitraratha, about twelfth in descent from Yadu, was 
the contemporary of the Paurava king Matinara. Gauri, the dau- 
ghter of Matinara, was married to Yuvanasva II of the Solar dynasty 
of Ayodhya, and their son Mandhatri, king of Ayodhya, married 
Bindumatl, the daughter of 6asabindu, son of Chitraratha. Both 
Chitraratha and ^asabindu were great kings. The Yadavas first 
developed a great kingdom under Sasabindhu, which included the 
territories of the Pauravas and Turvasus on the east and the Druhyus 
on the north. 

2. The Solar Dynasty 

Now we turn to the Solar dynasty which comprises the three 

278 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

lines of Ayodhya, Videha, and Vaisaia, and the Saryatas. These 
are the onxy branches that are important out of the lines produced 
by the nine sons of Manu. 

Ikshvaku, the eldest of Manu’s sons, was the first king of Ayo- 
dhya, and Manu gave him Madhyadesa. According to the Pur^s, 
Ikshvaku had a hundred sons of whom Vikukshi the eldest, Nimi 
and Da^da were most famous. Vikukshi, also named Sajsada, suc- 
ceeded Ikshvaku in the Ayodhya kingdom, and Nimi founded the 
Videha line. The Da^i^Rka forest is said to have been named after 
Danda or Dai^daka, the third son of Ikshvaku. 

Paranjaya or Puranjaya, the son of Vikukshi, received the ap- 
pellation Kakutstha on account of his being borne away by Indra, 
in the form of a bull, on his head (kakud) on .the battlefield. Sra- 
vasta, the son of Yuvan^va and sixth in descent from Kakutstha, is 
said to have founded Sravasti^^ which later became the capital of 
north Kosala. Of his grandson Kuval^va, a wild legend is current 
explaining how he received the alternative name Dhundhumara. 
KuvaJ^va is said to have marched against an Asura, Rakshasa or 
Daitya named Dhundhu near a shallow sand-filled sea in the Raj- 
putana desert in order to rescue a sage named Uttahka. He des- 
troyed the subterranean quarters of the Asura and put an end to his 
fiery home. This legend probably suggests that KuvaiSsva sub- 
jugated the Asuras and aboriginals to the west and in the southern 
parts of Rajputana and spread Aryan culture in those lands. Dr. Law 
sees a reference to a natural phenomenon in this legend. He con- 
jectures that the subterranean retreat of the Asura was really a 
small volcanic pit near the western sea-coast causing occasional 
earthquakes, and emitting smoke, ashes, and fire. Kuvalasva, by 
digging up the earth, first brought on volcanic eruptions destroying 
the army in flames and smoke; but later on a subterranean water 
channel rushed into the volcanic pit and extinguished it for ever.^^ 
According to Pargiter this legend alludes to a shallow sand-filled 
sea in Rajputana which formed the limit of Aryan advance towards 
the south ^ ^ Kuvalasva's eighth descendant was Yuvanasva II, also 
known as Saudyumni. A grotesque legend is told about the birth of 
a son to the king himself out of his left rib as a result of his drinking 
the holy sacrificial water intended for his queen. The child was 
nursed by Indra with the nectar exhaled from his thumb, whence 
it came to be known as Mandhatri. 

The other branches of the Solar dynasty may be briefly referred 
to. The Videhas sprang from Ikshvaku’s son Nimi, also known as 
Videha. Nimi dwelt in a town named Jayanta and the capital was 
Mithila, said to have been named after his son Mithi. The Videha 
line of kings came to be known as Janakas on account of this Mithi 
Janaka. 

The VaiSalas, though descended from Nabhanedish^ha (or Dh^-i- 

279 



THE VEDIC AGE 


shta, son of Nabhaga and grandson of Manu), came to be called such 
retrospectively from the name of king Vi^la who founded Vi^la or 
Vai^^ll as his capital. Bhalandana and Vatsapri are named as the 
first two kings. Bhalandana, who was a great sacrificer and a 
valiant and universal conqueror, is said to have become a Vaisya. 

The Saryatas originated from 6aryMi, the son of Manu, and 
played but an unimportant role in traditional history. sSaryati, who 
is said to have offered his daughter Sukanya in marriage to Chya- 
vana of the Bhrigu family, was succeeded by his son Anarta. The 
Saryata dynasty was short-lived and was destroyed by the Puajya- 
jana Rakshasas. The history of the Saudyumnas has been referred 
to above (p. 278). 

3. Bmhmana families 

Brahmeiiia families also play important roles in traditional his- 
tory, and we may take note of contemporary Brahmana families in 
the different periods of traditional history. The Brahmaija families 
claim descent from eight mythical rishis (sages), called mind-born 
sons of Brahma. There are also other fabulous accounts which seek 
to explain their names on the basis of etymology inventing fanciful 
stories. Out of the eight Br^mana families, i.e. Bhylgu, Ahgiras, 
Marichi, Atri, Vasishtha, Pulastya, Pulaha, and Kratu, the last three 
did not produce true Brahmana stocks. Pulastya was the proge- 
nitor of the Rakshasas, Vanaras, Kinnaras and Yakshas. From 
Pulaha came Kimpurushas, Pisachas, goblins, lions, tigers and other 
animals. Kratu, according to most accoimts, had no wife or child, 
and remained celibate, but some accounts make the Valakhilyas 
his offspring. The remaining five, however, were not assigned equal 
antiquity. The Bhargavas, Vasishthas, and probably Angirasas, 
appear to have been the earliest Brahmaipa families. The Atris and 
Kasyapas (from Marichi) originated later. 

The Bhrigus or Bhargavas claim descent frbm the primeval 
rishd Bhrigu. Chyavana and Sukra are the earliest Bhrigus men- 
tioned in the Puranas. Sukra was connected with the Daityas, 
Danavas, and Asuras as their guru, and was the rival of Bphaspati, 
the guru of the Devas. 6ukra’s daughter Devayani married Yayati, 
the Puru king, and bore him Yadu and Turvasu. 

The Vasishthas in Puranic accounts claim to have a mysterious 
origin, being descended from Mitravarupa in the present Manvantara. 
Some accoimts make the first Vasishtha one of the ten mind-born 
sons of Brahma in the Svayambhuva Manvantara. 

The Vasishthas have been connected as hereditary priests with 
the kings of Ayodhya from the earliest times. The Purapas men- 
tion a Vasishtha in connection with Ikshvaku and his sons Vikukshi- 
Saiada and Nimi. 

Though the Atri clan was an ancient one vying in antiquity with 

280 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEBT TIME 

» 

the earliest Brahmana families, the earliest individual member of 
the Atri family to be referred to in traditional history is Prabhakara, 
who is said to have married the ten daughters of BhadraSva, (or Raud- 
rasva) an early Paurava king. From Prabhakara^s ten sons descended 
the best Atreya Gotras. 

Marichi’s son Kasyapa, the progenitor of the Kasyapas, is made 
a Prajapati or identified with Kasyapa, the creator of all beings and 
the father of the gods and Asuras. 

Besides these ancient families, there were other Brahmaiia 
stocks such as Visvamitras and Jamadagnis, which did not claim 
primeval antiquity, and which emerged in traditional history at a 
later period. 

6. THE IvlANDHATRI PERIOD (c. 2750-2550 B.C.) 

I. The Solar Dynasty 

We now turn to the next period, the central figure in which 
is Mandhatri, son of Yuvanasva, of the Ikshvaku family. The Yadava 
empire under Sasabindu (p. 280) was rivalled by the Ayodhya king- 
dom under Mandhatri (p. 281), a famous king, a chakravartin and a 
samrdt. According to the Puranic accounts, Mandhatri Yauvanasva, 
an Aikshvaka, was a great chakravartin. He was the son of Yuva- 
nasva, and Gauri, the daughter of Matinara of the Pauravas. He 
was considered the fifth avatdra (incarnation) of Vishnu. He was a 
great sacrificer and is said to have performed a hundred Asvamedhas 
and Rajasuyas. His gifts and charities are eulogized and songs 
praising him have been handed down from very ancient times. He 
is mentioned as a king of very wide sway, magnanimous and giver 
of cows. Mandhatri married Bindumati, daughter of Sasabindu of 
the Yadavas. He had three sons, Purukutsa, Ambarisha, and Muchu^ 
kunda. His sister (daughter or granddaughter) Kaveri married 
Jahnu of the Kanyakubjas. 

The account of his birth from his father’s side and being called 
Mandhatri because of what Indra said at the prince’s birth (mdiii 
dhdta, i.e. the child will suck me), invented evidently to explain his 
name, is a late fabrication fashioned with great ingenuity. Man- 
dhatri is said to have obtained half the throne of Indra and conquered 
the whole earth in one day. He extended his sway over the neigh- 
bouring Paurava and Kanyakubja realms, and also conquered the 
Druhyus and the Anavas in the north-west. He probably spared 
the Yadavas who were related to him, but conquered the Haihayas 
in the Deccan. Mandhatri was succeeded by his eldest son Puru- 
kutsa. 

Purukutsa continued the conquest of his father. The Nagas 
induced Purukutsa to destroy the Mauneya Gandharvas who had 
despoiled them. They gave him their princess Narmada, and he 

281 



THE VEDIC AGE 


rescued them from the Gandharvas. This shows the extension of 
the Aryan culture towards the river Narmada and the land of the 
Nagas who were probably aborigines or primitive peoples. 

Muchukunda, the third son of M^dhatyi, was a famous king. 
The fable connecting him with Kalayavana and Krishna is an ana- 
chronism.^® He built and fortified a town on the Narmada between 
P^ipatra and Riksha mountains. Muchukunda’s supremacy, how- 
ever, did not last long, and the Haihaya king Mahishmant conquered 
that town and named it Mahishmati. The Ayodhya kingdom de- 
clined after Purukutsa, and some of the kingdoms of the Lunar 
dynasty again rose into prominence. 

2. The Lunar Dynasty 

The Paurava realm appears to have lain prostrate at the time 
of Mandhatri, for he is said to have sacrificed on the Yamuna, and 
crossing the Paurava kingdom he conquered the Druhyu king, who 
was pushed from Rajputana to the borders of the Punjab by the 
Yadava king Sasabindu. It was probably Sasabindu, the Yadava 
king, who conquered the Paurava realm, and the Haihaya king Bha- 
drasrenya traversed it to reach Benares. There arose no king of 
eminence among the Pauravas for generations after Yayati and 
Puru, so that the kingdom dwindled down, and the neighbouring 
kings absorbed parts of it till the Paurava kings were reduced to 
mere kings in name, and probably lived out in exile, as would 
appear from the account of Dushyanta who was with Turvasu 
Marutta, son of Karandhama. 

The Kanyakubja kingdom appears to have been overrun by 
king Mandhatri in course of his conquest of the Druhyus. The suze- 
rainty of Ayodhya over Kanyakubja was, however, short-lived, and 
Jahnu brought Kanyakubja into local prominence. Jahnu married 
the grand-daughter of Yauvanasva (i.e. Mandhatri). 

The Haihayas (of the Yadava branch of the Lunar dynasty) 
continued to prosper in their region south of Malwa, and as noted 
above, Mahishmant (one of their kings) founded the town Mahish- 
mati. His successor, king Bhadrasrenya, was an aggressive monarch 
who conquered the Paurava realm. He also extended his sway 
eastwards into the Kasi territories, conquered the kingdom, occupied 
Benares and reigned there. There Benares king Haryaiva tried to 
recover it, but was killed by the Haihayas and his son Sudeva also 
was overpowered. Later, Benares is said to have come under the 
possession of Kshemaka Rakshasa from whom it was subsequently 
recovered by Durdama of the Haihayas. The occupation by Rak- 
shasas indicates the devastation of the country by war resulting in 
its occupation by the rude tribes from the forest. 

The Anavas also grew in power. King Mahamanas, seventh in 
descent from Anu, extended the sway of the Anavas towards the 

282 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

east and the Punjab; and the bifurcation of the Anavas under his 
two sons Usinara and Titikshu shows the extent of his conquests. 

Usinara established a kingdom on the eastern border of the 
Punjab, which was divided among his five sons. Sibi succeeded to 
the throne at Multan; from Nriga, who established a separate king- 
dom in the present Montgomery district and the northern parts of 
Bikaner, sprang the Yaudheyas; Nava was the originator of the 
kings of Navarashtra; rulers of the city of Klrimila came from Krimi; 
and Suvrata started the Ambashthas, probably in the eastern Pun^ 
jab. Sibi Ausinara, however, was the most prominent among 
Usinara ’s sons, and the Sibis sprang from him. Sibi conquered 
practically the whole of the Punjab except the north-west corner, 
and established through his sons four kingdoms^ of (i) the Vrisha- 
darbhas, also known as Sibis, in the home territories of Multan, 
(ii) the Sauviras in Sind, (iii) the Kekayas in the modern districts 
of Gujarat and Shahpur between the Jhelum and the Chenab, and 
(iv) the Madrakas, with their capital at Sakala (modem Sialkot), 
in the Lahore division of the Punjab and the Jammu province in 
Kashmir. 

Titikshu moved eastward and crossing Videha and Vaisali came 
down to the east and founded a new kingdom in east Bihar v/here 
ruled the Saudyumnas. This new kingdom was known . as the 
“Kingdom in the East/' which later developed into the five kingdoms 
of Anga, Vahga, Kalinga, Pun^ra, and Suhma, divided among Bali's 
five sons. 

Lastly we come to the Druhyus. As the result of the success^ 
ful campaigns of Sasabindu, Yuvanasva, MandhMri, and 6ibi, the 
Druh\ais were pushed back from Rajputana and were cornered into 
the nortli-wostern portion of the Punjab. Mandhatri killed their 
king Angara, and the Druhyu settlements in the Punjab came to 
be known as Gandhara after the name of one of Angara's successors. 
After a time, being over-populated, the Druhyus crossed the borders 
of India and founded many principalities in the Mlechchha territories 
in the north, and probably carried the Aryan culture beyond the fron- 
tiers of India. 

7. THE PARASURAMA PERIOD (c. 2550-2350 B.C.) 

The whole of the age which has been designated the Parasu- 
rama period comprising about twelve generations (till the rise of 
king Sagara of Ayodhya of the Solar dynasty) was dominated by 
the Haihayas and the Bhrigus in turn. There is practically nothing 
worth recording in the Paurava line during this period which shows 
a great break till the time of Dushyanta who came after Sagara. 

1. The Bhrigus 

The Bhrigu-varhsa or the Bhargavas, the family to which Para- 

283 



THE VEDIC AGE 


surama belonged, dwelt in Anarta (Gujarat). After the 6aryMas 
perished and Western India was dominated by the Haihayas, the 
Bhrigus became associated with the Haihayas. King Kritavirya ot 
the Haihayas is said to have bestowed great wealth on the Bharga' 
vas who were his priests. On refusal of the Bhargavas to return it, 
Kritavirya ’s descendants ill-treated them and used violence against 
them so that they fled into Kanyakubja in the Madhyadesa for 
safety. Chief among the Bhrigus was Richika, son of Urva. a 
famous Rishi skilled in archery, who cherished great wrath towards 
the Haihayas. In order to w^reak vengeance on the wicked Haihayas, 
the Bhargavas engaged themselves in collecting arms and sought 
marital alliances with the Kshatriya ruling families. Richika 
sought in marriage Satyavati, the daughter of king Gadhi of Kanya- 
kubja. The king 5id not approve of the match and evaded it by 
demanding an almost impossible price in the form of a thousand 
black-eared horses. Richika, however, fulfilled the condition and 
married Satyavati. Jamadagni, the celebrated Bhrigii sage, was 
born of this marriage. He was thus Visvamitra's sister’s son. 

Jamadagni became skilled in archery and arms and made an 
alliance v/ith the ruling family of Ayodhya by marr^dng Renukii, 
daughter of Renu, a junior king in the line. Jamadagni w^as not a 
militant. jRichi but followed peaceful avocations. 

When the Haihaya king Kartavirya came to his hermitage with 
his army, Jamadagni treated him with right royal hospitality 
through the help of his celebrated divine Kamadhcnu (wish-giving 
cow). On Jamadagni’s refusal to part with the cow. Kartavirya 
forcibly seized her; but the Yavanas, produced from her body, de- 
feated Kartavirya. Subsequently, Kartavirya destroyed the hermi- 
tage and carried away the sacred cow. 

Four or five sons were born to Jamadagni, of whom Rama (or 
Parasurama), though the youngest, w^as the greatest among the 
Bhrigus. The Puranas represent Parasurama as an incarnation of 
Vishnu. He is said to have been born during the period of interval 
beween the Tret^ and Dvdvara Yugas. The Mahobkarata. how- 
ever, refers to him as an incarnation only in two late passages. 
Parasurama is represented as a very great warrior, skilled in all 
weapons, especially in arcliery. The Parasu (battle axo) w^as his 
special weapon, on account of which he came to be called Parasu- 
rama in distinction from Rama Dasarathi. The sIro;ghter of the 
Kshatriyas twenty-one times, and ridding the earth of the Kshatri- 
yas are said to be the principal feats of Parasurama. 

The Bhrigu-Haihaya conflict started after Kartavirya (Arjuna 
or Sahasrarjuna) raided Jamadagni’s hermitage in the absence of 
Ptama, molested the old sage and forcibly took away the sacred cow 
(as already stated). In revenge, Rama lopped off Arjuna\s arms 
and slaughtered him like an ordinary animal. Thereupon, on the 

284 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 


advice of Jamadagni, Rama set out 6n a pilgrimage for the expiation 
of the sin of killing Arjuna. During the absence of Parasurama, 
Arjuna's sons slew Jamadagni when he was in deep meditation. 
This enraged Rama to the extreme, and he declared a vendetta not 
only against the Haihayas, but against the Kshatriyas in general, and 
is said to have rid the earth of the Kshatriyas twenty one times. At 
regular intervals after the birth of fresh Kshatriyas, Rama restarted 
his campaign and slew all of them. Rama filled a number of lakes 
at Kurukshetra with the blood of the Kshatriyas. As the result of 
these raids, some Kshatriyas fled to the mountains or hid themselves 
among the women folk. Only Rikshavan of the Pauravas, Sarva- 
karma of Ayodhya, Brihadratha of Magadha, Chitraratha of Anga, 
and Vatsa of Kasi are said to have escaped from* Rama's slaughter.^o 
All this, indeed, is an exaggeration. It appears that on the strength 
of the matrimonial alliances of the Bhargavas with the iiiling fami- 
lies of Kanyakubja and Ayodhya, and also of the growing discon- 
tent due to the devastating raids and consequent unpopularity of 
the Haihayas, Rama organized a confederacy of various kingdoms 
including Vaisall, Videha, Kasi, Kanyakubja and Ayodhya which 
fought the Haihayas on various battlefields. These are probably 
referred to by the annihilation of the Kshatriyas twenty-one times. 
As the result of his all-round attack from all fronts, the Haihayas. 
for a time at least, must have suffered a serious setback. 

Rama is said to have retired to the forest for penance in order 
to atone for his sins after each slaughter. Finally, to rid himself 
of the sin, he donated the whole earth to Kasyapa. To free the 
earth from any possible future attacks from Rama, Kasyapa banish- 
ed him from the earth which now belonged to him. Rama then 
wrested from the sea the west coast and colonized it. The whole 
of the west coast from Bhrigukachchha (Broach) down to Cape 
Comorin retains association with Parasurama. 

According to the genealogical tables, Parasurama is several 
generations prior to the period of Rama (son of Dasaratha) and the 
Pandavas; yet he has been brought into connection with these heroes 
in the Ramdyava and the Mahdhhdrata. Thus he is said to have 
appeared before Rama after his marriage with Sita, advised Bala- 
rama and Krishna with regard to a suitable site for safety against 
the raids of Jarasandha, to have been the preceptor of Bhishma. 
Drona, and Karna, to have fought against Bhishma, to have advised 
Duryodhana not to fight the Pandavas, etc. These are clearly in- 
stances of anachronism as the result of the anxiety of the writers 
of the Epics to establish contact of their heroes with the great Bhar- 
gava. In order to get over these obvious anachronisms a theory 
was promulgated, at a later date, that Parasurama was chiran- 
jiva (immortal). 


^.85 



THE VEDIC AGE 


2. The Haihayas 

After the death of Purukutsa, the kingdom of Ayodhya lost its 
paramountcy in Upper India and the Haihaya branch of the Yadavas 
gradually began to extend its sway from the west, penetrating to 
the east and north, as noted above (pp. 284 if.). Reference has al- 
ready been made to Kritavirya and his son Arjuna, a great monarch, 
samrut, and chakravartin who, during his long reign, extended the 
Haihaya sway far and wide and raised the Haihaya power to great 
eminence. Arjuna is known by his patronymic Kartavirya and also 
as Sahasrarjuna (thousand-armed). The thousand arms ascribed to 
Arjuna were possibly his fleet of a thousand ships. Arjuna propi- 
tiated Dattatreya, a sage regarded as an incarnation of Narayana, 
and started his career of conquest which at once carried the Haihaya 
empire to great prominence and supremacy. He fought the Kirko- 
taka Nagas who occupied Anupa (territories near the mouth of the 
Narmada), captured Mahishniati and made it his capital. Kartavirya 
also defected Ravana who invaded his territories, brought him captive 
and subsequently released him. He appears to have led liis victorious 
campaigns from the mouth of the Narmada to as far north as the 
Himalayas, since in one of his raids he is said to have come across 
the hermitage of Apava Vasishtha in the Himalayas and burnt it, as 
a consequence of which he was cursed. Arjuna is said to have 
conquered the whole earth, and performed a number of sacrifices. 

Arjuna’s conflict with Jamadagni and Rama, to which we have 
already referred, occurred towards the end of his long and prosper- 
ous reign. 

Barring his relations with Apava Vasishtha and Jamadagni, 
which show Arjuna in an unfavourable light as inimical to the Brah- 
manas, he is always the subject of high praise and encomium in epic 
wmrks. He is described as an ideal monarch unparalleled in penance, 
charities, learning, and virtues, who conquered the whole world 
and ruled it with perfect justice. It is only his connection with 
the Bhri.gus that has been responsible for painting the ideal monarch 
in the blackest colours. His victories show that he carried the 
banner of Aryan conquest far and wide, and that Mahishmati on 
the Narmada was an outpost of the Aryan colonies of those days. 

Mr. Karandikar, after a thorough study of the Puranas. has 
suggested quite a different interpretation of the Sahasrarjuna 
episode.^ ^ According to him, the Bhrigus were great navigators 
and expert mariners who controlled the maritime trade between 
India and the western world, and occupied the coastal line on the 
Arabian Sea. They amassed a great fortune through their trade 
with foreign countries. The reason of the Bhrigu-Haihaya conflict 
was that Arjuna did not wish that the Bhrigus, who were agents of 
the foreigners, should thrive at the cost of the people. He wanted 
to keep the trade and commerce of the Indian people under the 

?86 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

control of an Aryan state, for the Bh|*igus were more self-seekers 
than patriots. Arjuna sought the help of the Atris, who were 
equally expert ship-builders, and who built for him a fleet of a 
thousand ships or a ship with a thousand oars (making Arjuna 
Saharsabahu, i.e. thousand-armed). Karkotaka Naga, Ravana and 
others who were defeated by Arjuna were seeking some opportunity 
to wreak vengeance on him. Arjuna's effort at getting control of 
the sea-trade was an eyesore to the Bhrigus, and further fuel was 
added by Arjuna’s demanding back the wealth he had bestowed on 
the Bhrigus. Parasurama led the opposition with the aid of 
the parties defeated by Arjuna, killed him, and destroyed the 
Haihaya power. The annihilation of the Kshatriyas twenty-one 
times is interpreted as the destruction of the population in the 
Narmada region a number of times in order to wipe out 
the memory of the popular king Arjuna. On the devastated 
Haihaya realm Parasurama founded new cities, and colonized some 
tracts in the west coast, founding Surparaka which became the 
centre of trade. The result of Parasurama's activities was to divert 
the trade from the hands of the Aryans in the north to the Dravi- 
dians in the south. 

Whatever we might think of the above interpretation there is 
no doubt that as the result of the Bhrigu-Haihaya conflict the Hai- 
hayas received a great setback. But they soon recovered from their 
reverses, and again extended their power in Northern India. Arjuna 
had many sons of whom the chief was Jayadhvaja who reigned in 
AvantL Surasena, another son, appears to have been associated with 
Mathura, while 6ura, the third son, probably was connected with 
Surashtra. Jayadhvaja ’s son Talajangha had many sons, of whom 
the chief was Vitihotra. The Puranas state that the Haihayas form- 
ed five groups, viz. Vitihotras, Saryatas, Bhojas, Avantis, and Kun- 
dikeras all of whom were collectively called Talajahghas.22 Of 
these, Vitihotra and Tundikera or Kundikera were in the Vindhyan 
range; the Saryatas were in Western India, Bhojas near the Aravalli 
hills, and Avantis in Malwa. They carried their raids not only 
against the kingdoms of the Madhyadesa but even against Kanya- 
kubja, Kosala, and Kasi. The Kanyakubja kingdom appears to have 
succumbed to these raids. The Haihayas killed Haryasva of Kasi in, 
a battle in* the Ganges-Jumna Doab, but met with reverses later on,, 
and the Vitihotra prince on the Benares throne had to seek refuge 
with a Bhargava sage. After this, the Haihaya dynasty practically 
came to an end, and the king became a Brahmana. 

The kingdom of Ayodhya, considerably weakened after Man- 
dhatri and Purukutsa, was attacked by^ the Haihayas with the co- 
operation of the hardy and semi-barbarous tribes (called Sakas, 
Yavanas, Kambojas, Paradas, and Pahlavas) from the north-west. 
This co-operation indicates that the intervening kingdoms between 

287 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Ayodhya and the frontier countries were overthrown by the Haiha- 
yas. Bahu (or Asita according to the Ramayaiui) , king of Ayodhya, 
had to leave the throne and seek refuge in the forest where 
he died near the hermitage of Aurva Bhargava. His queen gave 
birth to a son in the forest who was named Sagara and was educat- 
ed by Aurva Bhargava. As we shall presently relate, Sagara was 
the greatest king of the Solar dynasty during this period and re- 
covered his lost kingdom with the help of the Bhargavas. Vaisali 
and Vidi^ also were attacked by the Haihayas and Vidiia probably 
was under Haihaya occupation. Tradition, however, suggests that 
the Haihaya conquests towards the east were checked by the VaiMla 
kings. 

The Haihayas thus were engaged in making continual raids 
and over-throwing kingdoms; they, however, did not found any 
kingdoms in the countries overrun by them which lay devastated 
and fell an easy prey to the attacks by wild tribes. 

3. Other Lunar Dynasties 

The Yadavas: Contemporaneous with king Sagara of Ayodhya 
was Vidarbha of the Yadavas, who sought peace with the Ayodhya 
king, advancing south-westward, by offering his daughter Ke^inl in 
marriage to the latter. King Vidarbha then retired towards the 
Deccan into the country named after him, leaving the whole of 
northern India to acknowledge the suzerainty of Sagara. After 
Sagara’s death, the Yadavas of Vidarbha extended their authority 
northward over the Haihaya country. The three sons of Vidarbha 
founded three sub-lines. Kratha or Bhima, the eldest, continued 
the main line. The second son Kaisika became king of Chedi and 
founded the Chedi line.^s The location of the territories of the 
youngest son Lomapada has not been given. 

The Anavas: The Anava kingdom in the east founded by 
Titikshu appears to have been considerably expanded by the time 
of king Bali of the Anavas, a contemporary of Sagara, and was sub- 
sequently divided among his five sons, Ahga, Vanga, Kalinga, Pup- 
^ra, and Suhma, who were begotten by the sage Dirghatamas Mama- 
teya on queen Sudeshna at Bali’s request. The capital of Anga was 
Malini, four miles west of Bhagalpur. Separated from Magadha by 
the river Champa, Ahga comprised the modern districts of Bhagalpur 
and Monghyr. Vanga was further east corresponding to the modern 
Dacca and Chittagong Divisions. Pmjelra was Northern Bengal. 
Suhma comprised the Burdwan Division, and Kalinga, the sea-coast 
of Orissa including the Northern Circars. 

Kdnyakubja: A few generations after Jahnu, came Kusika the 
originator of the Ku^ikas. Kusika ’s son from PaurukutsI, Puru- 
kutsa’s descendant in about the sixth degree, was Gadhi. Gadhi is 


288 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

described as an incarnation of Indra, which probably means that he 
had an alternative title such as Indra or one of his synonyms. 
Gadhi’s daughter Satyavati, as already stated, was given in marriage 
to the Bhjrigu sage ^ichika Aurva. Through ^ichika’s favour, Gadhi 
had a son Visvaratha or Visvamitra who is a prominent figure in 
ancient legends. Convinced of the superiority of the spiritual power 
of Brahmanism by being worsted in his attempts to deprive Vasish- 
tha of his sacred cow, he resolved on attaining Brahmanism, and 
set out for austerities after renouncing his kingdom. Eventually, 
he succeeded in winning recognition as a Brahmana or Brahmarshi 
even from Vasish^ha. Then, Visvamitra is said to have championed 
the cause of Satyavrata Trisanku in opposition to Vasishtha, and 
raised Tri§anku to divine celebrity. Further, Visvamitra is said to 
have harassed Harischandra, Trisahku’s son, in order to test Vasish- 
fha’s praise of him as unrivalled in virtues. Visvamitra, again, is 
said to have slain Sakti and other Vasishfhas through Saudasas, i.e. 
descendants of Sudas. Then Visvamitra is spoken of as having 
adopted Sunafisepa as a son whom he saved from being offered as a 
substitute victim for Harischandra’s son Rohita. Visvamitra further 
appears in connection with Rama of Ayodhya, and also as father of 
Sakuntala who was married to Paurava Dushyanta and gave birth 
to the celebrated emperor Bharata. The Puranas further show that 
the rivalry between Visvamitra and Vasishfha is not only endless but 
hereditary. 

It appears that the Puranas combine the various accounts of 
different Vi^vamitras and roll them into one. For instance, Visva- 
mitra, the father of Sakuntala, Visvamitra, the contemporary of 
Rama, and Visvamitra, the contemporary of Harischandra, Jamadagni, 
Sunahiepa and of Sudas, Kavasa Ailusha and the Dasarajna were 
quite distinct personalities- The heroes of different episodes, relat- 
ing to widely distant ages, have been unified into a single persona- 
lity in the Puranas, and this has caused a good deal of chronological 
confusion and genealogical chaos. 

Visvamitra, the Kanyakubja king, was related to Jamadagni 
and Parasurama. It is therefore likely that the Kanyakubja king- 
dom helped the confederacy raised by Parasurama against the Hai- 
hayas. Visvamitra ruled for some time, and as the result of his 
discomfiture at the hands of Vasishtha, relinquished his kingdom 
and left for austerities in a forest leaving his family in a hermitage 
near Ayodhya. Visvamitra saved Sunahsepa, son of Ajigarta, who 
was being sacrificed as a substitute for Rohita, son of Harischandra. 
and adopted him, after renaming him Devarata. Visvamitra ’s sons 
did not accept DevarSta's headship, and so Visvamitra cursed them 
to become Mlechchhas such as Andhras, Pup^ras, and Sabaras. 
Ashtaka probably succeeded Visvamitra on the Kanyakubja throne. 

Pratardana (the son of Divodasa) or his son Vatsa ex- 
7.R9 



THE VEDIC AGE 


tended his sway further, and Annexed the country around Kausambi 
which came to be named the Vatsa country. Vatsa’s son Alarka re- 
gained the capital Varanasi from the Rakshasas who had occupied 
the city since the days of Bhadrasrenya and re-established it as the 
Kasi capital. Alarka had a long and prosperous reign. 

4. The Solar Dynasty 

Ayodhyd: After the rise of the realm to great heights in the 
reigns of Mandhatri, Purukutsa, and Trasadasyu, the empire appears 
to have remained, if at all, merely in name, and we do not meet 
with any important king till we come to Trayyaruna, Satyavrata- 
Trisahku, and Harischandra. Satyavrata— Trisahku is the subject 
of numerous fantastic tales in the Pur^ias^^^ Being expelled by 
his father at the instance of his family priest on account of some 
excesses, the prince is said to have led the life of a Chandala wander- 
ing in the woods on the baixks of the Ganges for twelve years. 
Trayyaruna died in the meanwhile, but Trisahku was not recalled. 
There was a great famine lasting for nine years during the time 
of Trisahku’s exile. While in the forest, Trisahku supported the 
family of Visvamitra which was starving, when Visvamitra, after 
renouncing the kingdom, had gone to the forest to perform penance. 
Visvamitra learnt of the generosity of the prince after his return, 
and in gratitude, as also in order to defeat his antagonist Vasishtha, 
got Trisahku installed on the Ayodhya throne. Trisahku was succeed- 
ed by Harischandra, the embodiment of truth. He was a samruf and 
is said to have performed the Rajasuya. The story of Harischan- 
dra, whose truthfulness was put to very severe tests by Visvamitra, 
is well known. Harischandra’s son Rohita is said to have built 
Rohitapura.^^ Rohita 's younger son Champa built Champapuri 
near Bhagalpur in east Bihar. Sixth in descent from Harischandra 
was Bahu. Sagara, so named because he was born with the poison 
which his step-mother administered to his mother, was born posthu- 
mously to Bahu in the hermitage of the sage Aurva. Sagara was 
taught archery by the sage Aurva, who specially instructed him in 
the celebrated Agneyastra. The foreign tribes, who came in the 
train of the Haihayas (ante, p, 289 ff.) and settled down in Ayodhya, 
were called Kshatriyas. They respected Brahmanas, observed Brah- 
manic rites and rituals, and retained Vasishtha as their priest. They 
remained in possession of Ayodhya for over twenty years till Sagara 
attained maturity. 

Sagara had to pass through Madhyadesa and Central India to 
lead an expedition against the Haihayas. After destroying them 
Sagara led his conquering hordes against their hardy outlandish 
allies, the 6akas, Yavanas, Kambojas, etc. He would have com- 
pletely crushed them but for the intercession of his priest Vasishfha 
with whom they sought refuge. Sagara then let them off after im- 

290 



TKADITiONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

posing on them certain signs oi symbolical defeat and disgrace; the 
Sakas were made to shave only half their heads, Kambojas to have 
their heads completely shaved, Paradas were forbidden to shave or 
trim the hair of their heads, and Pahlavas to shave their beards, thus 
rendering them unfit for Vedic ceremonials.^^ The story seeks to 
interpret, in the manner of the Pur^as, the peculiar customs of 
these peoples who were becoming Kshatriyas under the priestly gui- 
dance of the Vasishthas. Sagara 's name is connected with the ocean 
[sdgcira) in a fantastic legend which states that the ocean became 
Sagara's son.^' -’ 

Sagara subjected all contemporary powers and was the emperor 
of the whole of the north. The only important kingdoms to survive 
Sagara’s onslaughts appear to be Videha, Vaisali'and Anava in the 
east, the Vidarbhas and the Yadava branch on the river Chambal in 
the south, Kasi in the Madhyadesa and Turvasus in the hilly tracts 
of Rewah. Sagara’s eldest son Asamanjas, being cruel to the citizens, 
was discarded, and the latter’s son Ariisumant succeeded him. 

Vaisdli: Karandhama, king of Vaisali, is said to have been be- 
sieged by a confederacy of kings whom at last he defeated. He also 
rescued his son Avikshit, who was captured by the king of Vidisa 
(probably a Haihaya chieftain) and his allies aftei a great conflict, 
and dealt them a severe blow. Marutta, one of the sixteen univer- 
sal monarchs of antiquity, was born to Avikshit from Vi^la, 
daughter of the Vidisa king. Marutta was a ceaseless and tireless 
performer of sacrifices. He had thousands of vessels, sacrificial 
utensils, etc., made of gold. Despite his great valour, Marutta had 
immense troubles from the Nagas. He w^as determined to exter- 
minate them completely by setting fire to their habitations, though 
they took refuge with his father; but, when the Nagas restored to 
life the Rishis killed by them by means of herbs and by sucking out 
the poison, he let them off. According to Pargiter, these enemies 
were really the Haihayas, and Marutta deserves credit for ending 
the Haihaya aggressions permanently in the east.^^ 

5. Brdhmana Families 

As noted above, the Bhj-igus or Bhargavas practically dominated 
the whole epoch, and Richika, Jamadagni, Parasurama, and Agni 
Aurva wefe the prominent Bhargavas. 

Ayasya is the first Aiigiras mentioned in traditional history, and 
he officiated as a priest at the sacrificial ceremony of offering Sunah- 
sepa as a victim in the reign of Harischandra of Ayodhya. The 
Ahgirasas are found in connection with the Vaisala kings as their 
hereditary priests. Usija Angiras was the priest of Karandhama 
and Avikshit, and two of his sons, Brihaspati and Saihvarta officia- 
ted for Marutta Avikshita. Uchathya, the eldest son of Usija, had 
by his wife Mamata a son named Dlrghatamas, who was bom blind. 

291 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Dirghatamas was expelled for gross misconduct and set adrift in 
the Ganges, where after floating some distance downstream, he was 
rescued by king Bali of the Eastern Anavas. At Bali’s desire, he 
begot five sons on Bali’s queen, as mentioned above (p. 290). Dir- 
ghatamas is later said to have regained his sight. Towards the end 
of his life, Dirghatamas consecrated king Bharata of the Pauravas. 
Brihaspati had a son Bharadvaja, who moved to ELasi and became 
priest to king Divodasa. His son Vitatha was adopted by Bharata 
and he continued the Paurava line. 

Datta Atreya, who was propitiated by Haihaya Arjuna, was the 
only prominent figure among the Atris. 

Devaraj Vasishtha was a priest of the Ayodhya kings during 
the reigns of Trayyaruna and Satyavrata. His descendant officiated 
for the foreign 6akas, Yavanas, etc. and later became priest to Sagara. 
Another Vasishtha was Apava, in the Himalayas, whose hermitage 
was burnt by Haihaya Arjima. 

Kasyapa, who officiated as priest at the sacrifice of R^a Jamad- 
agnya and to whom the latter donated the whole earth, is the earliest 
Kasyapa mentioned in traditional history. He is later said to have 
expelled Rarna from the earth as noted above (p. 287). 

The only historical figure among the Agastyas is the Agastya 
who married Lopamudra and was a contemporary of Alarka, grand- 
son of Pratardana of Kasi. 

With the wars of Parasurama and Sagara described above, the 
Kyitayuga, according to the Puranas, came to an end. As the result 
of these wars, the old kingdoms of the Pauravas, Kanyakubjas, Druh- 
yus, and Anavas in the Punjab gradually disappear. The Yadavas 
recede into the Deccan, while the Haihayas are completely routed. 
The eastern kingdom of Vai^ll, Videha, Ayodhya, Kaii and the 
Anavas in Bengal continue to exist during the next period. 

8. THE RAMACHANDRA PERIOD (c. 2350-1950 B.C.) 

1. The Solar Dynasty 

There was some setback to Ayodhya after Sagara’s death. 
Sagara was succeeded by his grandson Aihsumant. The dynasty 
again rose to prominence under Aihiumant’s second successor Bha- 
giratha, and the latter’s third successor Ambarisha Nabhagi. Bhagi- 
ratha is included in the list of sixteen, famous kings and is celebrated 
as a chakravartin and a samraf, as also one who gained fame by his 
gifts of cattle. He was a devotee of Siva. He is reputed to have 
brought down the sacred river Ganges (which is known as Bhagl- 
rathi after him)^^ from the heavens, through the power of his penance, 
in order to liberate his andestors cursed by Kapila. The fable per- 
haps indicates that Bha^atha was the originator of the worship 

of the Ganges, or more plausibly, it may have some reference to the 

# 

292 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

canals dug by him from the Himalayas. Ambarisha was a powerful 
monarch and in his reign Ayodhya rose into prominence. The 
legends about his connection with the Bhagavata cult and the Dva- 
dasi vow are later creations. His third successor was Ritupar^ 
who figures in the well-known Nala episode.^^ Itituparna's son 
Sudasa has been identified with the Vedic Sudas of the D^ardjna 
by some scholars; but beyond mere similarity of names, there is 
nothing in support of this identification. Around Sudasa’s son Mitra- 
saha has grown a cluster of wild and fantastic legends, invented 
perhaps to explain his second name Kalmashapada. The king is 
said to have served human flesh through mistake to his preceptor 
Vasishfha who doomed the king to become a Rakshasa; but on rea- 
lizing that the king was not at fault, the sage limited the duration 
of his curse to only twelve years. The king, in his turn, prepared 
to curse his guru, but at the intercession of his queen, threw the 
mantra-charmed water over his own feet, because throwing it on 
the ground would have rendered the earth barren for years. But 
the charmed water turned his feet into stone, which led to his being 
called Kalmashapada.^^ After Kalmashapada resumed his natural 
state, he had, on account of a curse, to raise issue from his wife 
by a Niyoga or levirate union with Vasishfha. Asmaka, the son of 
the union, founded the city Paudanya.^2 Asmaka had a son named 
Mulaka, who later came to be called Narikavacha because it is said 
he sought protection among the women-folk through fear of Para- 
surama. But Parasur^a flourished generations before Asmaka, and 
the story has no chronological value. Probably it refers to the dis- 
turbed state of the kingdom after the days of Kalmashapada when 
his successors were weaklings, and during this period, when the 
Bharatas and Pafichalas were at the height of their power, the Ayo- 
dhya kings appear to have suffered reverses as the result of which 
Mulaka was to be brought up in secret. It appears that there was 
a bifurcation in the Ayodhya line for some six or seven generations 
after Kalmashapada’s time. The two lines, however, were united 
in a single monarchy under Khafv^ga, also known as Dilipa II. 
He was a great samvdt and a chakravartin, and is said to have help- 
ed the gods in their fight against the Asuras. He was a great devotee 
of Vishnu, and had a son named Raghu. The Ikshvaku dynasty 
came to be called Raghuvam^a on account of this celebrated Raghu. 
He conquered the whole earth and performed the Visvajit sacrifice. 
Being an ideal monarch, Raghu has been called the first king of 
Ayodhya. Raghu was succeeded by his son Aja, the consort of the 
Vidarbha princess Indumatl, to whom was born Da^ratha. Da^a- 
ratha was a valiant and all-conquering monarch who led his victo- 
rious campaigns throughout the length and breadth of North India, 
and spread the Aryan culture far and wide. The Yadava contem- 
porary of Da&iratha was Madhu who had cqiisolidated the Yadava 

293 


V. A — 19 



THE VEDIC AGE 


kingdom, and the contemporary Pauravas held at least four states 
in the Ganges-Jumna Doab, with the north Pahcbala branch special- 
ly prominent. The Kosala kingdom at the time of Dasaratha was 
bounded on the east by Videha, Vaisalx and Ahga; the Vatsa country 
which formed part of Kai^ lay to its south; it was bounded on the 
west by the Paurava principalities of north and south Pahchala, 
the main Hastinapura realm, and one more Paurava kingdom be- 
tween north Pahchala and Kosala. The region south from the Jumna 
up to Gujarat and beyond the Vindhya and the Satpura mountains 
was under Yadava domination with the emperor Madhu at the helm. 

Besides his three principal queens, viz. Kausalya, Sumitra and 
Kaikeyi, Dasaratha had a number of other wives. Dasaratha had 
married Kaikeyi oh the stipulation that the son born of her was to 
succeed him. He had a daughter 6anta whom he gave in adoption 
to the Ahga king Lomapada. Being without an heir for a long time, 
Dasaratha performed Putrakameshti (rite for securing male issue) 
on the advice of Vasishtha under the guidance of Rishyasrihga, who 
was married to Santa. As a result, four sons were born to Dasa- 
ratha, viz. Rama to Kausalya, Bharata to Kaikeyi and Lakshmana 
and Satrughna to Sumitra. Rama and Lakshmana obtained instruc- 
tion in^the science of archery from Visvamitra and they helped him 
in the performance of a sacrifice by vanquishing the horde of Rak- 
shasas that disturbed him. Then Visvamitra took the princes to 
Mithila, where Rama fulfilled the conditions and was married to Sita. 
It is later on when Dasaratha proposed to instal Rama as crown 
prince that the main story of Rama, as recorded in the Rdmayana, 
may be said to begin.^^ 

The story of Rama is particularly important as it brings South 
India definitely into view for the first time. Various have been the 
theories and interpretations about the Rdmdyana, and the text of 
the epic has been subjected to interpolations and additions in every 
stage of its career. But despite its accretions, mythological and fabu- 
lous legends, etc., the text can be made to yield historical facts. 
When preparations were made to instal Rama, the eldest son, as 
heir apparent, palace intrigues set in, and his step-mother Kaikeyi 
secured through Dasaratha the banishment of Rama along with Sita 
and Lakshmana to the Dan^aka forest for fourteen years. 
Dankjaka in these days was a great impenetrable forest save 
for a few patches here and there occupied by Aryan adven- 
turers. Rama first went to Prayaga and from there south-west 
to the region of Bhopal, whence he proceeded south across the Nar- 
mada and then probably to the Chhattisgarh district, where he dwelt 
for ten years. Thereafter he went south to the middle of the Goda- 
vari in the province called Janasthana, which was a colony of the 
Rakshasas, who had intercourse with their kingdom in Ceylon. The 
Rakshasas ill-treated |he Munis (sages) and Rama espoused the lat- 

294 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

ters’ cause and killed a number of Rakshasas. In revenge Havana, 
the Rakshasa king, carried away Sita to Ceylon. Rama proceeded 
south in quest of Sita, came to lake Pampa and Rishyamuka Parvata, 
where he made friends with Sugriva, the king of the Vanaras, who 
was expelled by his brother Valin. Rama killed Valin and reinsta- 
ted Sugriva on the throne. With the aid of the Vanara army and 
chiefs, Rama invaded Ceylon, defeated the Rakshasas, killed Ravava 
and recovered Sita. He placed Bibhishaija, younger brother of 
Ravai;ia. on the throne in Ceylon and returned to Ayodhya. 

Bharata acted as regent during Rama’s exile. Rama was crown- 
ed after his return to Ayodhya, and reigned prosperously for many 
years. 

The story of Rama, divested of its miraculous, fabulous, incre- 
dible and mythological elements, clearly indicates that he was a 
great king who spread Aryan ideas and institutions into regions far 
and wide. “Rama’s rule’’ is still proverbial for the Golden Age. 

Rama ’s younger brothers ruled over different provinces. Laksh- 
mapa had two sons, Ahgada and Chandraketu, and they were assigned 
two countries in Karapatha-de:^ near the Himalayas, with their res- 
pective capitals at Ahgadiya and Chandrachakra. Bharata apparent- 
ly got the Kekaya kingdom which was the province of his mother, 
and also Sindhu, i.e. Upper Sind. His two sons, Taksha ahd Push- 
kara, conquered Gandh^ra from the Gandharvas, and founded res- 
pectively Takshasila and Pushkaravati.S'^ 6atrughna fought the 
Satvata-Yadavas on the west of the Jumna and killed Madhava 
Havana, son of Madhu. He established his capital at Madhupuri 
or Madhura re-naming it as Mathura, and his son Subahu reigned 
there. R^a had two sons, Kusa and Lava, bom of Sita in the 
hermitage of Valmiki after Rama had deserted her in deference 
to public opinion. Kusa succeeded Rama in the Ayodhya kingdom, 
while Lava got the northern portion of Kosala with Sravasti as 
capital. 

These collateral kingdoms, however, appear to have come to an 
end soon. The two Gandhara states are not mentioned any further, 
and probably were amalgamated by the neighbouring Druhyus. 
Satrughna’s sons were expelled from Mathura by the Yadava king 
Bhima Satvata, and Mathura became a Yadava principality. No 
further account is given of the territories of Lakshmana’s sons nor 
of Lava’s kingdom. Ayodhya sinks into insignificance hereafter 
in traditional history, the chief roles being played only by the 
Pauravas and the Yadavas. 

Videha: Siradhvaja, the father of Sita, was one of the most 
celebrated of the Janakas. King Sudhanvan of Sahkishya demand- 
ed the hand of Sita in marriage from Siradhvaja, but the latter 
killed Sudhanvan in a fierce battle and installed his own brother 
Kuiadhvaja on the Sankishya throne. Siradhvaja ’s daughters, Sita 

295 



THE VEDIC AGE 


and Urmila were married respectively to Rama and Lakshmana, 
sons of Dasaratha, and Kusadhvaja’s daughters Mandavi and Sruta- 
kirti, respectively to Bharata and Satrughna. 

Vaisdlt: Marutta’s son Narishyanta is said to have performed 
a grand sacrifice, and he was a great donor. His son Dama was a 
great warrior who won a Da^rpa princess after defeating rival 
kings in a Svayarhvara. A few generations after Dama came IVi^a- 
bindu, who is said to have ruled during the third quarter of the 
Treta Age. Tfinabindu married Alambusha and had a son Vi^la 
and a daughter Ilavila. Ilavila was given in marriage to Pulastya, 
and their son was Visravas Ailavila. Visala is credited with the 
foundation of the capital Vij^la, and so this kingdom came to be 
called Vaisali (a nafme hitherto used in anticipation). Pramati or 
Sumati, the last name in the list, was a contemporary of Dasaratha. 

2. The Lunar Dynasty 

Pauravas: Dushyanta, the Paurava hero, appears to have 
flourished about a couple of generations subsequent to king Sagara 
of Ayodhya. Dushyanta was adopted as heir by the Turvasu king 
Marutta who had no son, so that the Turvasu line merged into the 
Pauravas. The central power of the Ikshvakus became weak after 
Sagara’s ‘death, and Dushyanta took that opportunity of recovering 
his ancestral kingdom. Dushyanta also revived the dynasty and 
hence is styled its Varhsakara. He married Visvamitra’s daughter 
Sakuntala who was brought up in the hermitage of one Kanva of 
the Kaiyapa family, and his son was the celebrated prince Bharata. 

Bharata, also known as Damana or Sarvadamana, performed 
a number of sacrifices on the Ganges and the Jumna with the aid 
of Dirghatamas Mamateya. He also sacrificed on the Sarasvati. He 
was a great conqueror and samrdt with a wide sway. He extended 
his dominions northward and his territories stretched from the 
Sarasvati to the Ganges. The Paurava dynasty came to be called 
Bharatas after the time of Bharata. It was probably during Bha- 
rata’s regime that the headquarters of the state were shifted from 
Pratishthana to the city, called later Hastinapura, after his successor 
Hastin. According to some accounts, Bharata gave his name to our 
country which was henceforth called Bharatavarsha. Bharata was 
disappointed in his sons and killed them. He propitiated the Maruts 
in order to obtain an heir and they gave him Brihaspati’s son Bha- 
radvaja as an adopted son. Bharadvaja’s son Vitatha, however, 
succeeded Bharata. Hastin, the fifth successor from Bharata, had 
two sons Ajamidha and Dvimigiha under whom the Paurava realm 
extended and fresh kingdoms were founded. Ajamidha, the elder, 
continued the main line at Hastinapura and Dvimidha founded the 
Dvimidha dynasty in the modem district of Bareilly. Ajamidha 
had three sons, viz. Riksha, Nila, and Brihadvasu. On Ajamidha’s 

296 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

• 

death, the main Paurava realm was divided among these sons, 
l^iksha succeeding his father at Hastinapura in the main line, which 
remained the Paurava line, and Nila and Brihadvasu founded what 
later came to be known respectively as the north Pahchala and 
south Pahchala dynasties. 

The country came to be known as Pahchala from the “five” 
sons of Bhrimyasva (the sixth successor from Ajamidha) who were 
jocosely nicknamed “capable” (p^ncha alam). The Pahchalas, thus, 
were a branch of the Bharatas. The name suggests arf amalgamation 
of five tribes, and there has been some speculation as to which parti- 
cular tribes went to form the Pahchalas. The Pahchala kingdom 
was divided between the five sons of Bhrimyasva, each of them re- 
ceiving a small principality. Mudgala, the eldest, founded an im- 
portant branch. Vadhryasva, the grandson of Mudgala, extended 
the kingdom, and his son Divodasa further augmented it. Pargiter 
and other scholars identify this Divodasa and his descendant Soma- 
datta-Sudasa with their Vedic namesakes, the latter of whom was 
the chief participant in the celebrated battle of ten kings.^^ 

Yddcivas: Kratha-Bhima continued the main Yadava line of 
Vidarbha, and Kaisika. his younger brother, was the progenitor of 
the Chedis. The most important king of Vidarbha was Bhimaratha, 
father of the celebrated Damayanti, who was married to Nala of 
Nishadha. Madhu. who came about ten generations after Bhima- 
ratha, appears to have consolidated the small Yadava principalities 
into which the Yadavas were divided before him. Madhu’s son 
Lavana was killed by Satrughna, who installed his own son Subahu 
in Mathura. But Subahu was ousted by BhTma Satvata, son of 
Satvat, who was Madhu ’s fifth successor. 

Eastern Anavas: We do not know any particulars about the 
kings in the Anga genealogy till we come to Lomapada, who is placed 
seventh in the genealogical list. Lomapada was a well-known archer 
and a great friend of king Dasaratha of Ayodhya, the father of Rama. 
Lomapada was childless and adopted Santa, the daughter of king 
Dasaratha. Santa was married to Rishya^^inga who performed the 
Putrakameshti sacrifice for Lomapada as the result of which Loma- 
pada got* a son named Chaturanga. Lomapada's great-grandson 
Champa gave the name Champa to the Anga capital, which was till 
then known as Malini. 

Kdsi: King Alarka, who finally drove the Rakshasas from 
Benares and re-established his capital there, is said to have been 
born to ^.itudhvaja (another name of Vatsa) from Madalasa. Alarka 
was a spiritually-minded king and relinquished the kingdom in 
favour of his brother when the latter invaded it. Alarka was 
succeeded by his son Sannati. 


297 



THE VEDIC AGE 


3. Brdhtnana Families 

Among the Bhargavas during this period, appears Valmiki of 
the Rdmayana, who was called Prachetasa. 

The father of Sakuntala was an important Visvamitra in this 
period, and another appears as the contemporary and rival of 
Vasishtha, the priest of Mitrasaha-Kalmashapada. 

9. THE KIIISHNA PERIOD (c. 1950-1400 B.C.) 

With the coronation of Rama as king of Ayodhya after the des- 
truction of the Rakshasas began the Dvapara age which ended with 
the Bharata War. During this period it is only the Pahchalas, Pau- 
ravas, and Yadavas that prominently figure in traditional history, 
while Ayodhya and others sink into the background. 

1. Panchdlas 

The North Panchala power rose into prominence during the 
reign of Sudasa who made extensive conquests. He defeated the 
Paurava king Samvarana and conquered his kingdom. Sudasa was 
succeeded by his son Sahadeva and grandson Somaka, but the for- 
tunes of the Panchalas waned after the time of Sudasa. Samvarana, 
the Paurava king, had recovered his territory probably from Somaka, 
and later, king Ugrayudha of the Dvimi^has killed the North Pah- 
chala king (probably the grand-father of Prishata) and annexed his 
realm. Prishata, the exiled North Panchala claimant, sought refuge 
in Kampilya of South Panchala. Ugrayudha then attacked the Paura- 
vas after Santanu’s death, but was defeated and killed by Bhishma, 
who restored Pyishata to his ancestral kingdom of Ahichchhatra. Dru- 
pada succeeded his father Pj-ishata in North Panchala. Drona, a fellow 
student, whom Drupada had insulted, defeated the latter with the 
aid of the young Paniju and Kuru princes who were his disciples. 
Out of both the North and South Panchalas which he thus conquer- 
ed. Dropa kept North Panchala for himself and gave South Pah- 
chiala to Drupada. The Somakas and Srinjayas, the remnants of 
the Panchalas, appear to have joined Drupada as they accompanied 
him in the great Bharata War. Drupada performed penance in 
order to get a son who would avenge his defeat by Drona and kill 
him, and Dhrish^adyumna was bom as the result. The Pahchalas 
played a very important part in the age of the Bharata War. The 
PSpi^avas married Draupadi, the Pahchala princess, daughter of 
Drupada, and the Pahchalas were the staunch supporters of the Piiu- 
^avas. 

Brahmadatta seems to have been ai? important king among the 
South Pahchalas. Tradition connects him with the revision and re- 
arrangement of Vedic and exegetical texts. He fixed the Kramapitha 
of the ^igveda and of the Atharvaveda, and his minister Kaicuglartka 
of the SSmnveda. Brahmadatta ’s great-grandson Janamejaya Dur- 

798 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

buddhi, the last king, was a tyrant and was killed by Ugrayudha of 
the Dvimidhas, and the dynasty came to an end. 

2. Pauravas 

As noted above, the Pahchala king Sudasa overthrew Samva- 
rana, the Paurava king. The latter fled to Sind and then recovered 
his kingdom through Vasishtha’s help.^^ Saihvarana had by Tapatl 
a son named Kuru, who was a renowned king raising the Paurava 
realm to great eminence. Kuru is said to have sacrificed at Prayaga 
which indicates that he extended his sway up to that place after 
subduing the intervening South Panchala territory. Kurukshetra 
and Kurujahgala, the cultivated and uncultivated portions, respec- 
tively. of Kuru’s territory, have been regarded b^ Pargiter as being 
named after this Kuru.^® Kuru was celebrated for his righteous 
rule, and Kurukshetra was regarded as a religious place. He was 
so much esteemed that his successors were called Kurus or Kaura- 
vas after him, the term sometimes being applied also to the people 
of the realm. 

There is some confusion in the Puranic texts with regard to 
Kuru’s immediate successors. The collated text®® suggests that 
Kuru had three sons, Parikshit, the eldest, Jahnu, and Sudhanvan. 
Parikshit had Janamejaya as his son, and the latter’s sons were 
Srutasena, Ugrasena, and Bhimasena; but nothing further is said 
about them. The accounts then pass on to Jahnu ’s son Suratha and 
his descendants, who thus appear to have continued the main Pau- 
rava (or Kuru) line. The succession of Jahnu ’s son Suratha on the 
main line indicates that Janamejaya's branch lost the sovereignty. 
A story is told how Janamejaya lost his throne.^® Janamejaya in- 
jured the sage Gargj/^a’s son and was cursed by Gargya. Indrota 
Daivapa Saunaka performed a horse-sacrifice for him, which absolv- 
ed him of his sin, but he could not recover his sovereignty and hence 
his three sons do not appear in the accounts. 

The line of Sudhanvan, the youngest son of Kuru, bifurcated into 
the Chedi and the Magadha branches, founded by his fourth succes- 
sor Vasu. The kingdom held by the main Paurava line appears to 
have declined, and there was no ruler in this line to revive the 
Kaurava fortunes till the time of Pratipa, who was a famous ruler. 
Pratipa had three sons, Devapi, Bahlika, and Santanu. The eldest 
Devapi was a leper, and hence could not become a ruler. The second 
Bahlika resigned in favour of 6antanu, who thus succeeded Pratipa, 
The epic gives various legends about Santanu. Santanu married 
Ganga, and Bhishma was bom to them. Bhishma, whose original 
name was Devavrata, vowed to remain celibate all his life and re- 
nounced his right to the throne in favour of his younger brothers in 
order to enable his father to marry Satyavati. Bhishma is a celebrat- 
ed figure in the galaxy of Indian heroes. He was a great warrior, an 

299 



THE VEDIC AGE 

< 

able administrator and well versed in politics, science of war, etc. 
Ugrayudha of the Dvimidhas attacked the Kauravas but, as noted 
above, Bhishma killed him and reinstated Prishata, the son of the 
late ruler of North Panchalas, whom Ugrayudha had driven out. 

To Santanu were born Chitrahgada and Vichitravirya from 
Satyavati. Chitrahgada was killed while fighting against the Gan- 
dharvas and Vichitravirya succeeded him on the throne. But 
Vichitravirya died young without leaving any issue, and the queen 
of Vichitravirya had through Niyoga (levirate) two sons from Vyasa, 
viz. Dhritarashtra and Pandu. Dhritarashtra, the elder, being bom 
blind, Pandu was crowned king of Hastinapura while the veteran Bhi- 
shma looked to the affairs of state. Dhritarashtra married Gandhari, 
and had by her a iiundred sons, chief of whom were Duryodhana, 
Dub^sana, etc. Pandu married Kunti or Pritha, daughter of Kunti- 
bhoja and an aunt of Kjrishna, and Madri, sister of Salya, the Vahika 
king. After his marriage with Madri, Pandu started on his campaign 
of conquest. He vanquished the Dasarnas, the kings of Mithila, 
Kasi, Suhma. and Puindra and extended the Kuru dominions."^'' While 
engaged in hunting, Papdu killed a sage in the form of deer and was 
cursei^ In repentance, Pandu left his kingdom and went along with 
his wives to the Himalayas for performing penance. There Kunti 
gave birth to Yudhishthira, Bhima, and Arjuna who are, in reality, 
said to be respectively the sons of Yama, Vayu, and Indra; and 
Madri, to the twins Nakula and Sahadeva from the Asvins. Pandu 
died in the hermitage, and Madri, burnt herself along with him on 
his funeral pyre. Thereafter, Kunti returned to Hastinapura along 
with the five sons. Dhritarashtra assumed the reins of govern- 
ment in the meanwhile and appointed Yudhishthira, the first-bom 
among the Kuru family, as the crown prince. Though the sons of 
both Dhj-itarashtra and Paindu were Kauravas, the term was restricted 
to the sons of Dhritarashtra, and Pandu’s sons were called Pand^vas. 

Chedi and Magadha: Vasu, the fourth successor of Sudhanvan, 
conquered the Chedi kingdom from the Yadavas and founded a dy- 
nasty there, whence he obtained the epithet Chaidyoparichara (over- 
comer of Chaidyas). His capital Suktimati lay on the river Sukti- 
mati (the Ken). Vasu was a samrat and a chakravartin and extend- 
ed his sway over adjoining Magadha, and possibly over Matsya also. 
He had five sons, among whom he divided his territory, establishing 
them in separate kingdoms. Magadha came as the share of his 
eldest son Bfihadratha. Kusa was given Kausambi, Yadu had 
Karusha, and Pratyagraha got Chedi. Probably the last son got 
Matsya which adjoined Chedi in the no»th-west. 

With Byihadratha establishing himself in Magadha, with Giri- 
vraja as his capital, and founding the famous Barhadratha dynasty, 
Magadha becomes a prominent factor in traditional history. Jara- 
Sandha in the Barhadratha line was a very powerful king, and under 

iOO 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARUEST TIME 

him Magadha rose to great prominence. He extended his territories 
as far away as Mathura, where Karhsa. the Yadava king, who was his 
son-in-law, accepted his suzerainty. Kaihsa tyrannized over his 
people and was killed by Krishna who placed Ugrasena on the Ma- 
thura throne. Enraged at this, Jarasandha led many a campaign 
against Krishna and the Bhojas of Mathura, defeating them several 
times. Though the Yadavas could withstand Jarasandha for a time, 
they decided to migrate in a body south-westward as they were afraid 
of a complete rout at his hands. They then established themselves 
in the west coast with their head-quarters at Dvaraka under Krishna. 
Jarasandha was killed by Bhima, the P^d^va, and his son Saha- 
deva became an ally of the Pand^vas. 

3. Yadavas 

The large Yadava kingdom ruled over by Bhima Satvata was 
divided among his four sons, Bhajamana, Devavridha, Andhaka, and 
Vi’ishni. Bhajamana’s descendants appear to have attained no dis- 
tinction. Devavridha was connected with the river Parnasa (Banas 
in West MMwa), and his descendants were the Bhojas of Martti- 
kavata, apparently in Salva comitry around Mount Abu. Andhaka, 
who reigned at Mathura, had four sons, but only Kukura and Ehaja- 
mana are important. From Kukura were descended the Kukuras 
who formed the main dynasty down to Kaihsa. Bhajamana’s des- 
cendants were known as Andhakas, and they ruled somewhere near 
Mathura. An important king in the line was Kritavarma, the son 
of Hridika, who fought on the side of Duryodhana and was one of 
the three on the Kauravas’ side who survived the Bharata War. 
Thereafter, he went to Dvaraka and later was killed by Satyaki in 
the fateful fratricidal struggle that brought the downfall of the Ya- 
davas. Vrishni had at least four sons, the eldest and the youngest 
having the same name Anamitra. From them arose numerous 
families. From Anamitra or Sumitra, the eldest, was born Nighna, 
and his sons Prasena and Satrajit succeeded him. Satrajit is a well- 
known figure in the Syamantaka legend connected with Krishna, 
and was the father of Satyabhama, one of the eight principal queens 
of KrishT:ia. Devamidhusha in the line married an Ikshvaku princess 
named A^maki and a son named Sura was born to him. From Sura 
and his cpxeen, a Bhoja princess named Marisha, were born ten sons 
and five daughters including Vasudeva who was the eldest, and 
Pyitha, Srutadeva. and Srutasrava. Pj*itha was adopted by the 
old king Kuntibhoja from whom she came to be known as KuntL 
She married the Pauyava prince Paodti, and was the mother 
of elder Pai;^d^^vas. Srutadeva married a Karusha king named 
VTiddha^arma. Srutasrava was given to the Chedi king Dama- 
ghosha, and Siiupala was born to them. Vasudeva married 
the seven daughters (Devaki, etc.) of king Devaka of the 

301 



THE VEDIC AGE 

Kukuras, and Balarama and Klrishna were the sons of Vasudeva. 
Vasudeva’s daughter Subhadra married Arjuna, the Pandava, to 
whom Abhimanyu was born from her. Abhimanyu’s son was Parik- 
shit who occupied the Hastinapura throne after the Blwata War. 
The descendants of Anamitra, the youngest son of Vrishni by Madri, 
are called Sainyas through his son 6ini. Satyaki and Yuyudhana 
were born in this family. 

Ahuka among the Kukuras had, by a Kasi princess, Devaka, 
Ugrasena, and other sons. Devaka had four sons and seven 
daughters (Devaki, etc.). Krishna was born of Devaki. Ugrasena 
had nine sons and five daughters, Kaihsa being the eldest. Kaihsa 
usurped the throne after imprisoning his father. Vasudeva was 
his minister. Kaihfea killed seven children of his cousin Devaki, 
relying on a prediction that her eighth issue was destined to be his 
slayer. Krishna and Balarama were brought up in Gokula and 
Vrindavana. Krishna killed Karhsa and reinstated Ugrasena on the 
Mathura kingdom as already stated. 

Krishna being the central figure in this epoch, we shall briefly 
deal with his life and historicity.^ ^ Krishna was born in the prison 
cell at Mathura, but immediately after birth was removed to Gokula 
on the other side of the Jumna with the aid of the prison warders 
and others who were dissatisfied with the tyrant Kaihsa. He was 
brought up in Gokula as the child of Nanda and Yasoda, whose 
daughter was substituted for Krishna and was later killed by Kaihsa. 
As a child, Krishna appears to have been endowed with extraordinary 
gifts and passed through many adventures. His childhood was 
spent in Gokula and various incidents connected with his youth are 
recorded in the Puranas and other texts. The incidents are pre- 
sented in the garb of myths and miracles, but there may be a real 
basis for some of them. A few years after Krishna’s birth, the 
cowherds left Gokula on account of an onrush of ferocious wolves 
and settled in Vrindavana, where Krishna subjugated Kaliya, a Nag^ 
chief, and ordered him to leave the place with his tribe. " In Vrinda-^ 
vana, in place of the usual Indrayajna, Krishna established the prac- 
tice of worshipping nature. Krishna’s extraordinary exploits, 
widespread popularity, and great fame reached the ears of Kaihsa, 
and he planned to kill, through his wrestlers, the V^rish^i princes 
Krishna and Balarama, after inviting them to Mathura to visit his 
court and attend a wrestling bout. Krishna and Balarama, however, 
killed the prize fighters. Krishna then slew the tyrant Karhsa him- 
self, and re-instated Ugrasena on the Mathura throne. Thereafter, 
Krishi?a and Balarama left for Kasi for their education, but had to 
return soon on account of the invasion of Mathura by Jarasandha, 
the Magadha king, who was enraged at K^sa’s death, the latter 
being his son-in-law. Jarasandha ’s invasions were resisted for 

302 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

some time, but finally the Yadavas decided to leave Mathura in a 
body and settled in Dvaraka on the west coast. 

■ Kj'ishna appears for the first time in the Mahdbhdrata story at 
the Svayariivara of Draupadi. He was a friend and counsellor of the 
Pan^avas, and his sister Subhadra was married to Arjuna. King 
Jarasandha of Magadha was killed by Bhima under Krishna’s direc- 
tions. At the rdjasuya performed by the Pandavas, Krishna was 
offered the first worship. This enraged the Chedi king Sisupala 
who heaped vile abuse upon Krishna and was killed by him. After 
the period of the P^cjavas’ exile was over, Krishna acted as their 
emissary of peace to Duryodhana, but all his efforts at conciliation 
proved futile. In the great Bharata War, Krishna offered his per- 
sonal help as a charioteer to Arjuna, while his army joined the Kau- 
ravas. Krishna helped the Pandavas a number of times during the 
great war. In fact it was mainly, if not solely, due to the impor- 
tant part played by Krishna in the great war that the Pandavas 
emerged victorious. 

Krishna returned to Dvaraka after Yudhishthira was installed 
on the Hastinapura throne. He revived the stillborn child of Abhi- 
manyu’s widow Uttara, later known as Parikshit. The last meeting 
of Krishna and the Panda vas was at the latter’s Asvamedha. To- 
wards the close of Krishna’s life there was a fratricidal struggle 
among the Yadavas in which practically the entire Yadava males 
were destroyed. Then Krishna sent a messenger to Hastinapura 
inviting Arjuna to come to Dvaraka and look after the women and 
children, and asking them to accompany Arjuna, Krishna retired to 
the forest. Arjuna came to Dvaraka, took with him the remnants 
of the Yadu family, and installed Vajra, the only surviving grand- 
son of Krishna, on the throne of Mathura. Krishna, when in deep 
meditation, was hit by the arrow of a hunter who mistook him for 
a deer. Thus passed away one of the grandest figures in ancient 
India, ^here is now a general consensus of opinion in favour of 
the historicity of Krishna. Many also hold the view that Vasudeva, 
the Yadava hero, the cowherd boy Krishna in Gokula, the counsellor 
of the Pandavas, and the great philosopher of the Bhagavadgltd, or in 
short Krishna of the Puranas and Krishna of the Mahdbhdrata were 
one and the same person.^^ xhe deification of Vasudeva ICrishna as 
an incarnation of Vislinu must be dated before the period of the 
Mahdbhdshya fi.e. second century B.C.)^ 

4. Eastern Anavas 

Under the suzerainty of Jarasandha, king of Magadha, Ainga 
came to be ruled for some time by Karna, who was a faithful ally 
of the Kauravas, and one of the principal actors in the Great Epic 
of India. Among the galaxy of epic heroes Karna occupies a very 
high position, and his real worth has not been fully appreciated as 

303 



THE VEDIC AGE 
« 

he is looked at with prejudice on account of his becoming a staunch 
supporter of Duryodhana. Ill-luck seems to have pursued Karna 
from his very birth, when he was deserted by his mother Kunti, as 
he was born, when she was still a maiden, from the Sun Grod. He 
was thus in reality the eldest of the Pan^avas, but being brought up 
by a Suta, he met with slights and insults at every stage in his life. 
His so-called low birth came in the way of his being ranked as fit to 
compete with Arjuna. Duryodhana at once crowned him the king 
of Ahga, and thus began a cordial friendship which made Kan^ the 
strongest supporter of the Kauravas, whose, every cause he cham- 
pioned with thorough wholeheartedness. Karna met with his end 
not because he was beaten, nor on account of his being inferior to 
Arjuna in any way, but he was the victim of his own greatness, and 
destiny was always against him. He is indeed a unique hero who 
should be admired for his magnanimity, unflinching devotion to the 
cause he championed, valour, skill, and truthfulness. Vrishasena 
was the eldest of the sons of Karna; but along with his five brothers, 
he was killed in the Bharata War. 

5. The Solar Dynasty 

After Rama’s time, Ayodhya plays no important part in tradi- 
tional history. Kusa, Rama’s son, who became the ruler of south 
Kosala with his capital at Kusasthali, appears to have extended the 
Aryan culture in the Vindhya regions. The story of Kusa’s marriage 
with a Naga princess shows how he spread the Vedic culture among 
the aborigines. The next important figure after Kusa is Hiranya- 
nabha Kausalya who is described as a disciple of Jaimini from whom 
he learnt the science of Yoga. The last Solar king of the pre-Bharata 
War period was Brihadbala who led the Ayodhya forces against the 
Pan^avas. Though Bhima conquered him before the Rajasuya, 
Brihadbala was subsequently subjugated by Karna and hence he 
fought at the head of the Kaurava forces. Brihadbala was killed 
by Abhimanyu in the Kurukshetra war. 

10. THE BHARATA WAR (c. 1400 B.C.) 

1. Kauravas and Pant^vas^ 

All the young Kuru princes received training in arms from 
Kfipa and Drona. where Aivatthaman and Kan>a were their study- 
mates. Bhima and Duryodhana specialized in club-fighting and 
wrestling, Nakula and Sahadeva in fencing, Yudhishthira in chariot 
fighting, and Asvatthaman in magic arts. Arjuna was not only the 
best archer but excelled all in every respect. But Karna was 
Arjuna’s equal in archery. On completion of their training, Drona 
demanded as his fees the defeat and capture of the Panchala king 
Drupada who had insulted him as his co-student. The Kuru princes 
marched against Drupada and vanquished him. Drona made peace 
with Drupada by leaving South Panchala to him and taking North 

304 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARUEST TIME 

Paiichala for himself. Dliritarashtra’s sons, through jealousy, set 
on foot various plots in order to destroy their cousins, but the P^- 
davas escaped unhurt through all these traps. After their safe 
escape from the lac house at Varanavata, the Pandavas started on a 
journey in the guise of Brahmanas. They came to Kampilya, and 
on Arjuna’s successfully accomplishing the feat imposed as a test in 
the Svayarhvara of princess Draupadi of PahchMa, daughter of king 
Drupada, she became the common wife of the five P^d^va brothers. 
Hearing of the successes of the P^d^vas, Dhritarashtra called them 
back to Hastinapura and gave them the Kh^d^va-Prastha desert. 
The Paiidavas founded Indraprastha and made it their capital. 
Owing to breach of a self-imposed rule, Arjuna went on a voluntary 
pilgrimage for twelve years during which he contracted marital 
alliance with Chitrahgada, princess of Manipur, and Subhadra, the 
Yadava princess, sister of Krishna. The Pandavas burnt down the 
whole of Khaindava jungle, saving the life of Maya Asura, who in 
gratitude erected for them a wonderful assembly hall. Then Yu- 
dhishthira decided to perform a Rajasuya sacrifice as the emblem of 
sovereignty. As a preliminary to the sacrifice, the other four Pan- 
dava brothers set out on conquering the whole earth. King Jara- 
sandha of Magadha was their greatest opponent and challenger, 
and under the advice and guidance of Krishna, Bhima killed Jara- 
sandha in a duel. Jarasandha’s son Sahadeva was installed on the 
Magadha throne and he became an ally of the Pandavas. Bhima, 
Arjuna, Nakula, and Sahadeva led campaigns respectively towards 
the east, north, west, and south. The descriptions of these con- 
quests throw much light upon the countries and peoples of the days 
of the Mahdbhdrata, though at places there are myth and anachro- 
nism. Numerous kings including the Kauravas were invited to the 
Rajasuya, and Krishna was offered the first worship therein. The 
Chedi king Sisupala objected, and in the quarrel that followed, was 
killed by Krishna. It was after the Rajasuya when Duryodhana 
was inspecting the Sabhd or Assembly Hall built by Maya that the 
seeds of the Bharata War were deeply sown. The rapid rise of the 
Pandavas was an eyesore to the Kauravas and they hit upon a plan 
to oust them from their kingdom. Taking advantage of the Ksha- 
triya code of conduct that one should not refuse, when invited for 
a duel or -for a gambling-match, Duryodhana called on Yudhisli- 
thira for a game of dice, in which the latter staked everything 
including Draupadi, and lost it. The denuding of Draupadi occurred 
after this game of dice. From hot words, the princes were coming 
to blows, but old Dhritarashtra let off the Pandavas. Soon after- 
wards the second game of dice was played in which the stake was 
that the loser should spend twelve years in the forest, and the 
thirteenth incognito. The Pandavas lost this game also, and had 
to leave for the forest. Draupadi accompanied them. During the 

^05 



THE VEDIC AGE 

thirteenth year, Pan^avas stayed in the Matsya country in disguise. 
There they helped the Matsya king Virata against the attack of the 
Kauravas. Virata’s daughter Uttara was married to Abhimanyu, 
the son of Arjuna. After completing the full period, seeing that 
war was inevitable, each party tried to enlist as many sympathisers 
as possible. Krishna himself sided with the Pan^avas but his forces 
fought on the side of the Kauravas. Salya was won over by Duryo- 
dhana. Drupada’s priest was sent to the Kauravas on behalf of 
the Pan^avas for negotiations, and finally Krishna himself went as 
an ambassador of peace. But Duryodhana was adamant and refused 
to part with even a particle of earth. Thus began the Great War 
which may be regarded as the greatest event in the prehistoric age 
of India and forms the theme of the Great Epic Mahabharata. 

2. Bhdrata War 

The epic gives a long list of princes on each side. The Kauravas 
had eleven divisions under them as against the seven of the 
Pao^avas. Towards the east, out of the old Magadhan empire, onlj”^ 
western Magadha ruled by Jarasandha’s son Sahadeva was on the 
Pan^ava side. All the rest, viz. eastern Magadha, Videha, Anga, 
Vanga, and Kalihga, which were under Karna, joined the Kaurava 
forces. The Kiratas under Bhagadatta, ruler of Pragjyotisha, also 
were under the banner of the Kauravas, so that practically the 
whole east supported them. In Madhyadesa, the rulers of Vatsa, 
Kasi, Chedi, Karusha, Da^rna, and Panchala figured among the 
supporters of the Pandavas, while Brihadbala, king of the Kosalas, 
went to the opposite camp. The Yadavas were divided in their 
allegiance. Krishna was the non-combatant adviser of the Paij^avas 
and Balarama remained neutral. Yuyudhana and Satyaki, among 
the Vrishnis and Yadavas, came to the Pandavas, while Nila of 
Mahishmati, Vinda and Anuvinda of Avanti, Kritavarman of the 
Bhoja-Andhaka-Vrishnis, Vidarbha, Nishada, and 6alva supported 
the Kaurava forces. In the Punjab and the north-west, Jayadratha 
of Sindhu-Sauvira who was the brother-in-law of the Kauravas. 
Sakimi of Gandhara, Susarma of Trigarta, Kekaya, 6ibi, Salya of 
Madra (related to the Pandavas), Vahlika, Kshudraka, Malava, 
Sritayu of the Ambashthas, and Sudakshina of the Kambojas, were 
in the Kaurava army; only Abhisara, which formed the south-western 
part of Kashmir is said to have joined the Pandavas. Thus, the 
Pandavas’ supporters were Panchalas, Matsya, Chedi, Karusha, 
Western Magadha, Ka^i and south-western Yadavas. Under the 
Kauravas came practically the whole of eastern India, the whole of 
north-west, Kosala, Vatsa, and Surasena in the Madhyadesa, and 
Mahishmati, Avanti, and Salva in the west. In short, broadly speak- 
ing the MadhyadeSa and Gujarat stood for Pandavas and the rest, 
viz. east, north-west, and western India, opposed them. The Pap- 

306 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARUEST TIME 

^ava army encamped near Upaplavya, the capital of the Matsyas; 
and the Kaurava forces were gathered near Hastinapura. Last 
minute efforts were made for an amicable settlement, but the nego- 
tiations proved futile, and the great battle was fought on the famous 
field of Kurukshetra. 

Dhrishtadyumna, son of Drupada, was appointed the Comman- 
der-in-Chief of the Pandavas and Bhishma led the Kauravas. The 
two hosts were bound to follow certain rules of war traditional 
among the Kshatriyas. Only opponents of equal birth and armed 
with the same kind of weapons were to fight each other. None was 
to fight without first challenging his opponent. Those engaged 
in personal combat with another, and those who surrendered, as 
well as the fugitives and non-combatants were to be spared. The 
venerable Bhishma commanded the Kaurava forces during the first 
ten days of war. It was only through the arrows discharged by 
Arjuna against Bhishma under the cover of Sikhandin (whom 
Bhishma did not fight, gikhandin being originally a woman) that 
on the tenth day Bhishma fell down headlong from his chariot. 
Drona was consecrated the next commander, and he carried on the 
fight till the fifteenth day. Abhimanyu was killed on the thirteenth 
day and Ghatotkacha, the demon son of Bhima, on the fourteenth. 
Drupada and Virata were killed by Drona on the fifteenth day, and 
finally that evening Dhrishtadyumna killed Drona, while in deep 
sorrow on hearing the false news of the death of his son Asvattha- 
man. Karjia was the next commander. His turn lasted only for two 
days during which Bhima tore open Duhsasana^s breast, Kan?a was 
killed by Arjuna. Salya became the commander on the eighteenth or 
the last day of the battle. He was killed Yudhishthira by about 
mid-day, while Sahadeva kiUed Sakuni. The entire host of the 
Kauravas was thus completely annihilated and Duryodhana fled 
to a pond where the Pandavas challenged him. In the club- fight 
against Bhima Duryodhana ’s thighs were smashed and he dropped 
down bleeding. Duryodhana appointed Asvatthaman as the last 
commander who, with the help of the other two survivors from 
among the Kaurava heroes, viz. Kripa and Kritavarman, stealthily 
entered into the Pandava camp at night and slaughtered the surviv- 
ing Pancjava princes and Dhrishtadyumna while asleep. With the 
death of -Duryodhana perished all the male members of his large 
family except his old and blind father. The Pandavas emerged 
victorious, but besides the five Paii^ava brothers, Satyaki was the 
sole survivor on their side. Thus the victory, though complete, 
was won at a very high cost. 

The Kuru line being extinct with the death of the hundred sons 
of Dhritarashtra, Yudhishthira became king of the Kurus and ruled 
at Hastinapura. Later on Yudhishthira performed a horse-sacrifice 
on Vyasa^s advice in order to purge himself of all sins. Arjuna was 

307 



THE VEDIC AGE 


placed in charge of the horse and the sacrifice was completed with 
due ceremonial. Dhritarashtra retired to forest with Gandhari 
after a few years and was consumed in a forest conflagration. Yu- 
dhishthira, however, did not reign long. Some years after the 
Bharata War, the Vrishms and Yadavas of Gujarat perished in 
fratricidal strife and Krishna died. Arjuna was sent to bring the 
survivors of the Yadavas, but on his way back he was attacked and 
defeated by the Abhiras. Arjuna returned to Hastinapura with 
Krishna’s grandson Vajra, and placed him at the head of the people 
who followed him from Dvaraka. Thereafter Yudhishthira abdi- 
cated and retired to the forest along with his brothers, placing 
Parikshit, Arjuna’s grandson, on the throne. 

The accession of Parikshit marks the beginning of the Kali 
Age, as the Dvapara Age is said to have closed with the Bharata War. 
In the Puranic accounts also “the past” ended, and “the future” 
began, at the close of the Bh^ata War which was an epoch-making 
event in the annals of the country. The dynasties of the Kali Age 
in the Puranas begin with the accession of Parikshit, though some 
begin their accounts after Adhisimakrishna, fourth in descent from 
Parikshit.*^^ 

The traditional accounts do not state how the family feud in the 
Kuru family was turned into an all-India affair, so that every ruling 
dynasty of any note during the period, howsoever far from Kuru- 
kshetra, is represented as having participated in the war. The non- 
mention of the Bharata War in later Vedic Literature does not 
necessarily disprove its historicity. For one thing, it was a purely 
political contest, and hence naturally did not interest the authors 
of the BvdhmancLs^^ An argumentum ex silentio is seldom con- 
clusive. Again the Paijdus, according to traditions, were not a body 
of strangers, but were scions of the Kuru family. The very signifi- 
cance of the term Pandavas, as distinct from the Kauravas, was 
forgotten soon after the war, and the term Kurus alone survived. 
Though the Mahdbhdrata, in its present form, is a late production, 
the kernel of the story takes us back to the period between 1400 
and 1000 B.C. when, as noted above, the battle was probably fought. 
The Asvaldyana Grihya-sutra (III. 4. 4) refers to the Bharata and 
Mahabharata, and jSdnkhdyana Srauta-sutra (XV. 16), to the disas- 
trous war of the Kauravas. Pai^ini refers to the heroes of the 
Bharata War as already objects of wprship. All these clearly prove 
the antiquity of the story of the Mahdbhdrata, 

II. COMPARATIVE VALUE OF THE VEDAS AND THE 
PURANAS AS SOURCES OF TRADITIONAL HISTORY 

There is a difference of opinion among scholars as to the com- 
parative value of the Vedic texts and the Puranas in regard to the 
historical data supplied by them. Keith is excessively sceptical 

308 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARUEST TIME 

about the historical value of the Pura^ias and is doubtful regarding 
the historicity of any event which is not explicitly mentioned in 
the Rigveda. Pargiter goes to the other extreme and gives more 
weight to the Puranic tradition than to the Vedic evidence, which 
he styles as the tradition of the Brahmaiias who possessed no 
historical sense. The so-called Kshatriya tradition, however, is 
hardly an unpolluted source of history. Priority of date and com- 
parative freedom from textual corruption are doubtless two strong 
points in favour of Vedic texts. The evidence of the Puranas, on 
the other hand, cannot be ruled out altogether, because despite a 
good deal of what is untrustworthy in them, they alone contain 
something like a continuous historical narrative, and it is absurd 
to suppose that the elaborate royal genealogies were all merely 
ligments of imagination or a tissue of falsehoods. 

But the theory which pronounces the Pur^as as representing 
Kshatriya tradition as distinct from, and superior to, the Brahmana 
tradition contained in the Vedic texts, does not appear to be correct. 
The theory is mainly based on two assumptions: (1) that the heroes 
of the legends and stories in the Pur^as are Kshatriya kings who 
mostly do not figure in Vedic literature, and (2) the transmission 
of their history was entrusted to Sutas of Kshatriya origin. There 
is hardly any foundation for these beliefs. The Suta was not a 
non-Brahmana but a venerable sage. As regards the so-called 
Kshatriya traditions, there have never been in India two such water- 
tight compartments as the Brahmana tradition and the Kshatriya 
tradition. Even in the works distinctly assigned to Kshatriya tra- 
dition by Pargiter, we find the glorification of the Brahmanas, and 
the so-called Brahmanic literature abounds in Kshatriya legends. 
The Puranas themselves assign a comparatively small portion to 
genealogical accounts, the genuine Kshatriya tradition according to 
Pargiter; their main bulk deals with Vedic and Brahmanic lore. 
Moreover, the Puranas follow the Vedic religion and take pride in 
styling themselves as the “fifth Veda.” The earliest reference to 
the Puranas, as observed by Keith, is for a point of Brahmanical 
lore and not for a point of genealogy or history.^ ^ Again, even 
according to Pargiter, the Puranas, as we have them now, are un- 
deniably a Brahmanic compilation; so no part of it can be distin- 
guished as Brahmanic or Kshatriya tradition.'^® It would perhaps 
be more correct to say that these are not two distinct sets of tradition, 
but both are Brahmanical traditions, though produced under different 
environments and with different aims and objects. 

Moreover, it may be observed that there is no irreconcilable 
contradiction or conflict between the Vedic texts and the Pura3jas. 
The Rigveda, as we have it, is a Kuru-Pafichala product; naturally, 
therefore, the kings belonging to those clans play prominent roles in 
it, and others find but incidental mention. Kings, who are men- 

309 

V..4.— 20 



THE VEDIC AGE 


tioned in the Vedic texts but are not found in the Puranic traditions, 
were possibly princes and chieftains of smaller dynasties, not pre- 
served in the dynastic lists in the Puranas. There is also the pos- 
sibility of the same person being referred to under different names 
in the two sets of traditional accounts. Some of the kings mentioned 
in the J^igveda can be fitted in the gaps in the Puranic lists. The 
Rigveda, no doubt, offers the proper corrective to the Puranic lists, 
but, when we find Puranic accounts to be corroborated by the Vedic 
evidence, it is legitimate to take their testimony as valid even 
in matters on which the Rigveda is silent. The proper procedure 
for the writing of traditional history is to take into account the 
joint testimony of the Vedic and Puranic texts wherever available, 
and to try to bring harmony into the apparently conflicting texts. 
The evidence of the Puranas in these matters needs very careful 
consideration. 

A critical examination of the Puranic texts and Vedic literature 
reveals the fact that the Puranic genealogies in some cases refer to 
the same persons figuring in the Vedic literature. The Puranic 
data about some of the royal dynasties, kings, and Brahmana families 
find confirmation in Vedic literature, and there is no basis for the 
view that there are hardly any points of contact between the Vedic 
and Puranic traditions. Here we shall briefly refer to the important 
persons who appear in both Vedic literature and the Purmas. 

The Rigveda mentions Yayati as an ancient sacrificer and a son 
of Nahusha, and he is also known as a seer of some hymns. But 
his connection with the Lunar dynasty or with Puru, Anu, Druhyu, 
Yadu, and Turvasu, as told in the Puranas and MaMbhdrata, is not 
found in the Vedic texts, and hence Macdonell and Keith condemn 
the epic tradition as “inaccurate.”*^ 

The names of the above five sons of Yayati, however, occur in 
the Rigveda as those of ancient tribes. The word Yadu occurs 
several times in the Rigveda as the name of a king and his tribe. 
He is closely associated with Turvasa and once with Druhyu, Anu, 
and Puru. The Mahdbhdrata and the Purmas indicate this associa- 
tion by making Turvasu the full brother of Yadu, and Anu, Druhyu 
and Puru, his step-brothers. The Rigveda also indicates the close 
connection of Yadu and Turvasa with north-western India. The 
five tribes Yadus, Turva^s, Anus, Druhyus, and Purds represent, 
according to one view, the Vedic Pafichajanas. The Rigveda or 
Vedic literature does not corroborate the Puranic relationship of 
Yayati, son of Nahusha, with these five princes, though Yayati, the 
son of Nahusha, as noted already, is well known to Vedic texts. 
The Purus appear in the Rigveda as the enemies of Sudas and they 
dwelt on the Sarasvatl. It appears from the Rigveda that the Purus 
had sometimes friendly and sometimes inimical relations with the 
Tritsus to whom Sudas belonged. There is nothing to show any 

310 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLUEBT TIME 

connection between Vedic Puru or Purukutsa and Puranic Puru, 
son of Yayati. 

The Solar king Mandhatri appears to have been referred to as 
Mandhatri Yauvanasva in the Gopatha Brdhmana, the identity being 
further strengthened by the fact of both being the sons of Yuva- 
nasva. 

The interpretation of the famous Ddsardjna (battle of ten kings) 
of the Rigveda in traditional history supplies us with many interest- 
ing and important synchronisms, and the importance of the problem 
demands treatment at some length. 

We have already seen that Mudgala, the eldest of the five 
Pahchalas, was the founder of the main branch of the north Pan- 
chalas, and among his descendants were VadHryasva, Divodasa, 
Mitrayu, Maitreya Soma, Srinjaya, Chyavana Panchajana, and Su- 
dasa or Somadatta. There is no consistency among the different 
texts with regard to these names, Sudasa being in some Puranas 
replaced by Somadatta. Despite these difficulties, Pargiter and other 
scholars identify Divodasa and Sudasa in these lists with their 
namesakes in the Rigveda and see in the account of Saihvarana in 
the Mcikdbhdrata^ ^ the reference to the battle of ten kings in the 
Rigveda which resulted in the defeat of the Puru king. 

Pargiter points out that Mudgala, Vadhryasva, Divodasa, and 
Srinjaya are mentioned in the Rigveda hymns. Chyavana is probably 
meant in one hymn and his other name Panchajana is no doubt a 
misreading of Pijavana. Sudasa is called Sudas Paijavana. The 
Aitareya Brdhviana says that Sahadeva was descended from Srinjaya, 
and one hymn (RV, IV. 15. 7-10) says that Somaka was his son. 
The hymns agree with the genealogies in all these particulars. 
Chyavana was a great warrior and his son Sudasa extended his 
dominions. They probably conquered the Dvimidha dynasty and 
the south Pafichalas, as there appear to be gaps in the genealogical 
lists of these dynasties at this period." ^ 

According to Pargiter, “Sudas drove the Paurava king Sam- 
varai:ia of Hastinapura out, defeating him on the Jumna, His conquests 
stirred up a confederacy of the neighbouring kings to resist him — 
Puru (Saiiivarana), the Yadava (the Yadava king of Mathura), the 
6ivas (Sivis, who were Anavas), Druhyus (of Gandhara), Matsyas 
(west of Surasena), Turvasa (the Turvasu prince, apparently in 
Rewa) and other smaller states. Sudas defeated them in a great 
battle near the Parushni (Ravi), and Puru (Saihvarana) took refuge 
in a fortress near the Sindhu (Indus) many years."’"^ 

It may be stated at the outset that despite many differences 
between the Vedic account on the one hand and that given in the 
Mdhdbhdrata on the other, it is undisputed that the heroes of the 
Ddsardjna flourished at the period which has been assigned to 
Sudasa-Somadatta of the north Panchala line and to Saihvaraiia 

311 



THE VEDIC AGE 


and Kuru of the Paurava line. Dr. Pradhan has arrived at the 
same conclusion of the identity of Vedic Sudas with the Pahchala 
Sudasa after independent enquiry starting on different synchro- 
nisms.^*^ It has also been shown that Kuru and Samvarana were 
contemporaries of Tura Kavasheya whose father Kavasha Ailusha 
figured in the Ddsarajna:' ^ The discrepancies that we notice in 
the Vedic account and the accounts in the Puranas and the Mahd- 
bkdrata only show that traditional history, though based on a 
kernel of historical facts, is not only not infallible but inaccurate 
at times, and its credibility requires to be tested in the light of 
contemporary Vedic evidence. The details of the Ddsardpia as 
given in the Rigveda no doubt are a first-hand contemporary ac- 
count. The accounts in traditional history were pieced together 
out of the remnants of ancient tales, legends, etc. at a later date 
when memories of actual events were but faint and inaccurate. 

Now, apart from the fact that the geographical boundaries do 
not concur in the Vedic and Puranic accounts (as will be shown 
presently), it will be seen that there are many particulars that 
apparently speak against the proposed identification. In the first 
place, though the Rigveda mentions Mudgala and Srinjaya, it does 
not indicate any relationship between them and Sudas. Secondly, 
the Rig vedic Sudas is distinctly called the son of Pijavana whereas 
the Puranic Sudasa had Chyavana-Panchajana for his father. Yaska, 
Mahdbhdrata and Manu know Pijavana to be the father of Sudas, 
and hence the Pur^as cannot be said to have mistaken Panchajana 
for Pijavana as suggested by Pargiter.-^ It seems that the title Pan- 
chajana has been given to Sudasa in his capacity as the leader of 
the five tribes. Further discrepancies are found in the non-mention 
in the Rigveda of the important tribes of the period according to 
the Puranas such as the Satvatas, the Bhojas, the Videhas, the 
Ikshvakus, etc., either among the allies or among the adversaries 
of Sudas. Among the tribes mentioned in the Rigveda as participat- 
ing in the Ddsardjna, Turvasas, according to traditional history, had 
long ceased to exist, having merged in the Pauravas. The Tritsus, 
who were the principal helpers of Sudas according to the Rigveda, 
are not to be found at all in the Puranic tradition. Matsyas, one of 
the opponents of Sudas in the Rigveda^ emerge in traditional history 
only nine generations after Sud^a. The Puru adversary of Sudas 
has been named Purukutsa in the Rigveda whereas according to 
traditional history he comes to be Samvarana of the Pauravas. It 
is further curious that the Mahdbhdrata does not mention Sudasa 
by name at all, but refers to him only as P^chalya (a king of the 
Paiichalas). The scene of the battle has not been mentioned in the 
Mahdbhdrata or the Puranic texts. The Rigveda represents the 
battle to have been fought on the banks of the Parushi>I. This loca- 
tion of the conflict, however, seems to be most difficult, if not quite 

3P. 



TOADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

impossible, if we consider the territories occupied by the different 
members of the confederacy at the period, according to traditional 
history. The Druhyus were occupying Gandhara at the time, and 
it is difficult to see how they could be interested in or affected by 
the conflicts of people far away from them. The Turvasas, as already 
stated, did not exist at the time; and even if they did exist, as sug- 
gested by Pargiter, it is difficult to comprehend how they marched 
off over 500 miles from the Karusha country to participate in the 
exploits of a remote king. The geographical knowledge of the 
period of the Rigveda (as seen in Ch. XIII) did not extend much 
beyond the Ganges and Jumna or Sarayu to the east, and only up to 
the Vindhyas in the south; but the period of Sudasa in traditional 
history, which comes after that of Dasaratha and Rama, indicates 
knowledge of practically the whole of India. The truth under- 
lying these discrepancies between the Vedic and the Puranic and 
Mahdbhdraia accounts seems to be that the Puranic tradition “is 
patching up its genealogical fabric from whatever shreds of floating 
knowledge it ccmes across without any means of checking. This 
does not certainly mean that the Vedic and the Puranic Sudasa were 
quite distinct personalities. When we take into consideration that 
the Vedic and traditional accounts agree admirably with regard to 
the chronology of the period of the conflict, it appears certain that 
the similarity of names is not a mere coincidence. There are serious 
discrepancies, no doubt, when we come to the locations and political 
environments of the different participants in the conflict. But the 
mistake is due to the lack of definite knowledge on the part of 
chroniclers of traditional history. It may also be observed that the 
Mahdhhdrata account simply refers to the driving out of the Paurava 
king Samvarana from his kingdom by the king of the Pahchalas. 
At the distance of time between the Ddsardjna and the composition 
of the Mahdbhdrata^ the chroniclers remembered only the utter 
rout of the Paurava king at the hands of a Panchala king. 

Another important problem is the identity of Janamejaya 
Parikshita mentioned in the Vedic texts and in the Pur^as and the 
Mahdbhdrata. Tlie Puranas and the Mahdblidrata refer to two Jana- 
mejaya P:arikshitas, one an ancestor of the Pandavas (being grand- 
son of Kuru), and the second, a successor of the Pandavas (grandson 
of Arjuna).* 

On account the similarity of patronymic as also of the names 
of his brothers, the earlier Janamejaya is confused with the later 
Janamejaya and there has been transference of tradition. 

The Aitareya and the Satapatha Brdhmana enumerate Jana- 
mejaya as the performer of the Asvamedha sacrifice.'^ ^ The very 
fact that Bhishma narrates the story of Janamejaya's Asvamedha to 
Yudhishthira as an ancient legend clearly shows that the Asvamedha 
referred to was performed by the ancestor of the Pandavas, and 

313 



THE VEDIC AGE 


proves that a Janamejaya Parikshita before the P^davas’ time was 
a real person and not a shadowy figure as Dr. Raychaudhuri would 
have us believe.^® The descendant of the Pandavas is credited with 
the performance of the Sarpasatra and not an Asvamedha. The 
Asvamedha started by the later Janamejaya was not completed.®^ 
The Brahmaijas further mention Tura Kavasheya as the priest who 
anointed Janamejaya with Aindra Mahabhisheka, and Tura Kava- 
sheya can be proved to be contemporaneous with Janamejaya the 
ancestor of the P^davas. Kavasha Ailusha, father or grandfather 
of Tura, was drowned in the Ddsardjna, so that he was a senior 
contemporary of Kuru, son of Saihvarana, who lived during the 
Dasdrdjna period.^ ^ Janamejaya, who was the grandson of Kuru, 
was thus contemporaneous with Tura. This sacrifice, with Tura 
Kavasheya as priest, was performed for celebrating the attainment 
of imperial status by Janamejaya and not for atonement of any sin. 
The Satapatha Brdhmaim refers to another sacrifice performed by 
Janamejaya Parikshita with the aid of Indrota Daivapa Saunaka for 
ridding himself of a grievous sin which is described as Brahmahatyd 
(killing of a Brahmana).^^ The Puranas and the Mahdbhdrata do 
not associate Janamejaya, the descendant of the Pandavas, with 
any guilt. That the ancestor was the person alluded to is clear 
from the fact that the story of the sin of Janamejaya is told by 
Bhishma, and therein Janamejaya is accused of unwittingly killing 
a Brahmana.^® This also proves that Indrota Daivapa Saunaka 
flourished generations before the Bharata War. The Har^vanisa 
refers to Janamejaya’s killing the son of Gargya for insulting him, 
as the result of which Gargya cursed him.^'^ The Asvamedha per- 
formed by Indrota Daivapa Saunaka was to purge Janamejaya of 
this sin. The incident of the chariot of Yayati related in the same 
story, which states that the chariot continued in the Paurava line 
till the period of Janamejaya, and after him was transferred to 
Vasu Chaidyoparichara, eighth descendant from Kuru, clearly shows 
that the reference in the story is to the ancestor of the Pmdavas. 
The chariot then passed on to the Magadhas and came to Krishna 
after Jarasandha was killed.^' All these preceded Janamejaya 
Parikshita, the descendant of the Pandavas, and hence the allusions 
clearly refer to the ancestor of the Pandavas. The Harivaihsa clearly 
indicates that the Asvamedha story relates to the earlier Janame- 
jaya by making Janamejaya (the descendant of the P^davas) the 
auditor of the story which is told by Vaisampayana, who adds that 
there were two Janamejaya Parikshitas among the Pauravas.^^ 
The references in the Vedic texts thus clearly prove the existence 
of a Janamejaya Parikshita who was an ancestor of the P^^^vas, 
and the grandson of Kuru. The peace and plenty in the Kuru 
realm, alluded to in the Atharvaveda^^ and in the Brahmanas, 
came as the result of Kuru’s extensive conquests, and his son 

314 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARUEST TIME 

Pankshit and grandson Janamejaya continued the good work started 
by Kuru. Janamejaya’s heinous crime, however, deprived him and 
his successors of their kingdom which passed on to the younger 
branch (as already stated) and the Parikshitas suffered extinction. 
The Brihaddranycika Upanishdd refers to the vanished glory of the 
Parikshitas and enquiries as to their state in the next world.®^ To 
that the reply is given that they must have attained the state to 
which performers of Asvamedha sacrifices are eligible. 

These and other co-ordinations of the incidents and persons 
mentioned in traditional history and the Vedic texts clearly show 
that the two traditions are neither independent nor contradictory; 
that the traditional history has its basis in facts and is not the 
product of imagination; that traditional history has mostly preserved 
ancient tradition; and that when supported by Vedic texts its 
evidence is unimpeachable. No excuse is therefore needed for the 
somewhat long historical account, given above, on the basis of 
Epic and Puranic tradition. It has been customary for the writers 
of Indian history to confine themselves, so far as the political 
history of the period is concerned, to the few isolated facts gleaned 
from the Vedic texts. But we must not forget that ‘Hhe Vedic lite- 
rature confines itself to religious subjects and notices political and 
secular occurrences only incidentally so far as they had a Bearing 
on the religious subjects." As Pargiter has very pertinently ob- 
served: ‘'Ancient Indian history has been fashioned out of com- 
positions, which are purely religious and priestly, which notoriously 
do not deal with history, and which totally lack the historical sense. 
The extraordinary nature of such history may be perceived, if it 
were suggested that European history should be constructed merely 
out of theological literature. What would raise a smile if applied 
to Europe has been soberly accepted when applied to India. 

The force of these remarks is undeniable and no student of 
Indian history should ignore the legendary element in the Puranas 
and Epics. It is necessary to remember that, for reasons stated 
above, we cannot accept those traditions as genuine historical facts 
so long or so far as they are not corroborated by contemporary texts 
or other reasonable evidence. Until then we can treat them only 
as traditional history. But such traditional history has its value, 
and is in any case a necessary preliminary step for the discovery of 
genuine history. 

12. THE EXPANSION OF THE ARYANS AND ARYAN 

CULTURE 

In one respect, however, it seems difficult to accept the tradi- 
tional account without a great deal of reserve. This is the geogra- 
phical background of the Aryan conquest of India as described in 
the Puranas, 


315 



THE VEDIC AGE 


The Pur^as say nothing about the original home of the Aryans. 
The scene of traditional history opens in India, with the division 
of the territory, comprising the whole of North India extending in 
the east up to Orissa, among the ten sons of Manu, the king and the 
common ancestor of the ruling families in India (ante, p. 278). 

From this starting point, the traditional history enables us to 
trace the progress of Aryan advance during the four Ages — Krita, 
Treta, Dvapara, and Kali. Kings Sagara, Rama, and Krishna are said 
to have flourished respectively at the end of the Krita. Treta, and 
Dvapara Ages, so that the ICyita Age covers roughly 40 generations, 
Treta 25 generations, and Dvapara 30 generations (cf. App. II). The 
Kali Age set in after the Bharata War. 

By the end oi the Krita Age, we find the Aryans in occupation 
of the whole of North India including Sind and Kandahar in the 
west, and Bihar and West Bengal in the east. In the south, Gujarat, 
Kathiawar, the Western Coast south of Bombay and Berar were 
colonized by the Aryans, and their southern limits had extended 
beyond the Vindhya and the Narmada down to the Tapti and the 
Satpuras. 

While Parasurama is generally associated with the creation of 
Surparaka near Bombay, a stanza in the M^hdbhdrata shows that it 
was colonized earlier by Jamadagni.^^ Parasurama is credited with 
the Aryanization of the whole of the western coast of Bombay, 
especially the Konkan, the Karhata, the Tulava, and the Kerala. 
The traditions, at any rate, indicate the important role played by 
the Bhargavas in the colonization of the Deccan. 

The Aryan occupation during the Treta Age extended further 
east and south, embracing, in addition to the territories occupied in 
the Krita Age, Orissa, Assam, Chhota Nagpur, Central Provinces, 
and some parts further south. The southern territories of Jana- 
Sthana, Kishkindha, and also Lanka came under the sphere of Aryan 
influence during the days of Rama. 

By the time of the Bharata War (c. 1400 B.C.) which marked 
the close of the Dvapara Age, the Aryans had expanded over the 
whole of India, and even beyond its frontiers in the west. 

This traditional account of the Aryan expansion is, however, 
in conflict with the evidence of the Vedic texts. As has already been 
shown in Ch. XIII, there are good grounds to suppose that by the 
time the Rigveda was composed, the Aryans had not penetrated 
much further into the interior beyond the frontiers of the Punjab 
and Rajputana. If we remember that the Rigveda did not pro- 
bably receive its final form long before the end of the so-called 
Dvapara Age, its testimony is decidedly fatal to the geographical 
views assumed in the Puranas. 

But the Rigvedic evidence does not stand alone. We have an 
account of the spread of the Aryan culture in the Brahmapa period 

316 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

in the story of Videgha Mathava {ante, p. 258-59). This, as well as 
the fact that Kosala and Videha do not appear in the earlier Vedie 
literature, but are mentioned for the first time in the Satapatha 
Brdhmana, and the contemptuous references in the Atharvaveda and 
the Sutras indicate that Magadha and Vahga were then outside 
the pale of Aryan culture. All these leave no doubt about the 
general correctness of the assumption that the Aryans had not ad- 
vanced beyond the middle region of Northern India till after the 
end of the age represented by the Vedic Samhitas, i.e. at a time 
when most, if not all, the traditional royal dynasties dealt with in 
this chapter had ceased to exist. 

It is worthy of note that even the Smriti texts quote verses de- 
fining Aryavarta or the land of the Aryas as - co-extensive with 
Northern India. As to the expansion of the Aryan culture to the 
Deccan and South India, the evidence of Panini’s Ashtddhyayl and 
Katyayana’s Vartikas on Panini, seems to be fairly conclusive. The 
only country in the Deccan south of the Narmada mentioned by 
Panini is A.smaka, whereas Katyayana knows Pna^ya, Chola, and 
Kerala. This shows that the Aryans came into contact with these 
South Indian peoples during the time intervening between Panini 
and Katyayana, i.e. some time between the sixth and fourth cen- 
turies Yet the Puranas and the Rdmdyana would have us 

believe that the whole of South India, including Ceylon, was coloniz- 
ed by the Aryans or brought under their sphere of influence by the 
lime of Ramachandra in the Treta Age! 

It is impossible to rely upon the traditional account as recorded 
in the Epics and Puranic texts, at least in respect of those particulars 
which are so flatly contradicted by the evidence of earlier texts — 
an evidence which is all the more valuable as it is based upon 
incidental notices not likely to be fabricated in order to serve any 
preconceived notion. Whatever we might think therefore of the 
kings and dynasties mentioned in the traditional account, we can 
hardly accept, without demur, the location of their principalities as 
described in the Epics and the Puranas. 

It might be argued that many of the royal dynasties mentioned 
in the traditional account were not Aryans. This is not unlikely, 
for evidence is gradually accumulating (c/. Chs. VIII, IX) that a 
fairly deveiloped culture and powerful kingdoms flourished in India 
before the Aryans. But such a theory goes definitely against the 
traditional account which represents all ruling families, described 
above, as descended from the common ancestor Manu.’^® 

At the same time the existence of non-Aryans may be easily 
inferred. For besides the descendants of Manu who established 
dsmasties all over India, traditional history mentions Rikshasas, 
Vanaras, Asuras, Daityas, Danavas, Nagas, Nishadas, Dasyus, Dasas, 
Pulindas, Sakas, Yavanas, Kambojas, Paradas, Pahlavas, etc. who 

317 



THE VEDIC AGE 


appear to have been outside the Aryan fold- The Rakshasas were 
aborigines who were hostile to the Brahmaioas, while Vaiiaras, another 
aboriginal tribe, were allied to the Brahmanas. Asuras, Daityas, 
Danavas, and Nagas denoted peoples of different cultures in various 
stages of civilization ranging from the rude, aboriginal, uncivilized 
tribes to the semi-civilized races, offering strong resistance to the 
spread of Aryan culture. There appear to have been three stages 
in the description of the hostile tribes of Asuras, Danavas, Daityas, 
and Rakshasas in Puranic accounts. Originally, these denoted 
human beings, but as they were generally the enemies of the Aryans, 
these names came to mean alien and hated, hostile or savage men. 
Later on, these names became terms of opprobrium and abuse which 
led to the attribution of evil character to these peoples. Even 
certain Aryan kings were termed Danavas or Asuras due to their 
evil character. Finally, these terms came to be associated with 
demoniac beings and were used synonymously with demons. The 
Nagas appear to be partially civilized people. The Nishadas, Dasas, 
Dasyus, Pulindas, and Kiratas were mostly aboriginal, rude, savage 
tribes in a very primitive stage of civilization. All these tribes lived 
in hilly tracts, and some of them were cannibals. The Nishadas, also 
known as Mlechchhas, were according to ancient traditional views 
a mixed race of Aryan origin bom from a Brahmana male and a 
Sudra female. They are associated with the hills of Central 
India and the Vindhyan tracts. They had also settlements in the 
Vatsabhumi and, further east, near Allahabad. The Pulindas, 6a- 
baras, Mutibas, etc. were the aboriginal tribes of the south. The 
Pulindas were connected with the north also. The Kiratas had 
settlements in Assam and Nepal. The 6akas, Yavanas, Kambojas, 
Paradas, Pahlavas, etc. were foreign tribes from the west, but they 
were evidently absorbed among the Kshatriyas. Pandya, Chola, 
and Kerala dynasties in the south claimed descent from the Lunar 
Turvasus. 

But whatever we might think of the geographical and ethnical 
background of the traditional account, it perhaps reflects more ac- 
curately the method and process of Aryan colonization in India. 
One distinguishing feature of the Aryan expansion, as described in 
it, deserves special mention. The Aryans extended their sway and 
colonized fresh lands not by conquest alone with the ^aid of big 
armies. The colonization was also effected by small bands of ad- 
venturous Brahmanas and Kshatriyas from different Aryan king- 
doms, who went to new countries and, after clearing the jungles and 
making the tracts habitable, set up hermitages and residences there. 
The territories surrounding the Aryan-occupied Madhyadesa, the 
Vindhyas and Vidarbha, were colonized in this fashion. The Aryans 
colonized under the leadership of Kshatriya tribes, and new settle- 
ments were named after these tribes. The speed of Aryan ex- 

318 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 

pansion was necessarily slow where they received opposition from 
the aborigines or semi-Aryans or non-Aryans, as in the case of their 
eastward progress. 

Rama of Ayodhya is made to play a very important part in the 
expansion of Aryan culture in the south. It was probably on 
account of the signal service attributed to him in colonizing the 
Deccan, and spreading the Aryan religion far in the south and ren- 
dering it free from the harassment of aggressive and semi-barbarous 
tribes, that he has been included among the incarnations of the god 
Vishnu. This expansion of Aryan culture in the south was the result 
of the hearty co-operation of the Brahmana and the Kshatriya in 
carrying the banner of Aryanization. The Brahmana missionaries 
who accompanied the Kshatriya conquerors, introduced the essen- 
tials of Aryan culture and tradition to the masses, converted the 
principal figures, and paved the way for social and cultural contact 
by allowing high-born Aryans to marry with non- Aryans. Agastya, 
the pioneer among the Rishis to erect a hermitage in the trans- 
Vindhyan regions, preceded Rama by generations; but he paved 
the way for later adventurers. The story of Agastya reveals the 
important part played by the Brahmanas in the spread of Aryan 
civilization over southern India. The ancient Rishis undertook 
missionary enterprise and helped in the propagation and diffusion 
of the Aryan culture by their active efforts, often at considerable 
risk to their lives. They moved in large numbers to distant lands, 
and performed sacrifices and observed religious rites in their new 
settlements. Their genuine missionary spirit, coupled with their 
peaceful character, not using any force nor resorting to retaliation 
despite provocation, helped in creating a favourable atmosphere for 
the reception of the Aryan religion. The Rishis mixed with the 
aborigines and civilized them. The Aryan spirit was kept alive by 
the Brahmana, not by the Kshatriya; but, “without the protection 
of the chief, the Brahmana was powerless; and it was not the Brah- 
mana’s peaceful penetration, but the military exploits of the chief 
that enthralled the popular imagination.”^'-^ Rama’s expedition, as 
described in the Rdmdyann, did not put the non-Aryans of the south 
under the political subjugation of the Aryans, but it brought the 
southern territories of the Vanaras and Rakshasas as protectorates 
under the Sphere of Aryan influence, and was mainly responsible 
for bringing these peoples under Aryan influence. 

The contribution of the Yadavas in carrying the banner of 
Aryan culture over large tracts of land in the south-\vest and in 
Rajputana, Gujarat, Malwa, and the Deccan, which came under 
their occupation, needs special mention. It was due to the activities 
of the Yadavas that these regions were brought under the Aryan way 
of life. The peculiar feature in the career of the Yadavas is the 
considerable mixture they had with the non-Aryans, though they 

319 



THE VEDIC AGE 


trace their descent from Pururavas through Yadu. This fact coupl- 
ed with the possible looseness in the observance of the Aryan 
Dharma led the Epics and Puranas to call the Yadava branches 
Asuras, and to class them with the tribes of the extreme north-west 
and west among the Nichyas and Apachyas. The fact that they 
mixed freely with the Non-Aryans, with whom they had marital 
relations and some of whose customs they incorporated, facilita'led 
the Aryanization of the so-called outsiders, and thus spread Aryan 
culture far and wide. Krishna of the Yadavas, well known as a 
politician, w’arrior, and religious teacher, was a national hero, who 
was regarded as an incarnation of Vishnu. He held liberal and 
catholic views and his doctrines helped in the spread of Aryan ideas 
among the so-called Sudras. 

Whatever we might think of the historicity of Rama and Krishna, 
as depicted in the above accounts, they may not unreasonably be 
regarded as true types of Aryan heroes who were pioneers in the 
spread of Aryan culture and colonization all over India. 


GENERAL REFERENCES 

KIRFE L, W .: Das Pancalaksana. Bonn, 1927. 

PARGITER, F. E.: Ancient Indian Historical Tradition. London, 1922. 
RANGACHARYA, V.: Pre’-Mnsalman India, vol. II. “Vcdic India,*’ Part I. Madras, 

m'k 

1. AIHT, pp. 30, 54. 

la. Some, however, do not attach any historical value to the story of the Rdindyana 
cf. e.g, Ch. VIII, above, p. 168 . 

lb. El, VI, pp. 11, 12. 

2. JRAS, 1911, pp. 479 fl., 675 IT. 

3. BrihaUSamhitd, XIII. 3; Rdjatarangim. I. 48-56. 

4. Rai, PIHC, IV. p. 115 (3140 B.C.); Triveda, JIH, XVI. iii (3137 B.C.); Vaidya, 
H5L, IV. pp. 4-8 (3102 B.C.); Abhyankar, ABORL XXV. pp. 116-36 (3000 B.C.): 
Sen Gupta, JRASB(L), III. 101 ft.; IV. 393 f. (2449 B.C.); Karandikar, POC 
XIL Summaries Part II, pp. 6-8 (1931 B.C.); Deb. JASB. XXI. pp. 211-20 
(1400 B.C.); Daftary, POC, XII. Summaries Part II, pp. 8-12 (1197 B.C.): 
Pradhan, CAI, pp. 262-9 (1151 B.C.). 

5. AIHT, pp. 179-83. 

6. Cf. AIHT, p. 179; DKA, pp. 13-22; 67-9; 58, 74. 

6a. Woolley, IJr of the Chaldees (Pelican), pp. 23-4, 

7. Vdyu P., 21. 28; 8. 160-7; 57. 39-41, 56. 

8. Mbh, XII. 59. 106-8. 

9. J§at. Br. I. 8. 1. 1-6; cf. SBE, XII. pp. 216-8, Mhh (Cr. Ed.) III. 185; Matsya, P., 
1. 11-34; 2. 1-19; Bhdgavata P., VIII. 24 ft., IX. 1 ft. 

10. AIHT, p. 84, n. 2. 

11. JRAS, 1902, pp. 267-8; Majumdar, CAG, pp. 507-8; Dey, GD, p. 17. 

12. Pratishthana has been identified with Pihan, a villajaiG near Prayaga (Allaha- 
bad) — jayachandra, BIR, pp, 128-9. 

12a. For the Rigvedic hymn on the subject, cf. Ch. XVI. 

13. Mhh (Cr. Ed.), III. 176-8; (Bom. Ed.), , XIII. 99-100. 

14. AIHT, p. 259, fn. 7. 

15. Sravasti has been identified with modern Sahet Mahet on the Rapti in the 
district of Gonda in Oudh (Dey, GD, p. 189). Cf. also Majumdar, CAG, p. 469. 

16. Tribes in Ancient India, p, 121. 

17. AIHT, pp. 260-1. 

18. Padrna P., VI. 189. 73; 273. 51-70; Brahma P., 196. 16-197. 5; Vishnu P., V, 
23. 26-24. 5; Hari, II. 57. 43-63. 

19. Mhh, XII. 339. 84, 103-4; cf, Sukthankar, ABORl XVIII. p. 48. 

20. Mhh, XIL 49. 76-83. 

21. In the Nava Kdl (Marathi Daily of Bombay) in the year 1932-3. 

22. Matsya P., 43. 48-9; Vdtju P., 94.51-2; Kirfel, PPL, p. 420.50. 

320 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE EARLIEST TIME 


23. Chedi comprised the land between the Chambal and the Ken on the southern 
bank of the Jumna corresponding to modern Bundelkhand, Cf. Dey, GD, p. 48; 
Majumdar, CAG, p. 725. 

24. Kirfel, PPL, pp. 317-23. 

25. Rohitapura has been identified with Rohtas in the district of Shahabad in 
Bihar. Dey, GD, p. 170. 

26. Vayu P., 88. 140-1, 

27. Vdyu P., 88. 144-63; Brahma P.. 8. 52-71. 

28. AIHT, p. 268. 

29. The name Bhaglrathi is applied to the stream which originates from Gangotri 
and Gomukha, and joining Bhilahgana at Tehri meets Alakananda, the main 
stream of the Ganges, at; Devaprayaga. Jayachandra, BJR, p. 150. 

30. For the Nala episode, cf. Mbh. (Cr. Ed.), III. 50-78. 

31. Mhh (Cr. Ed.), I. 166-73 gives another account. 

32. Paudanya (Potana in Mhh, Cr. Ed., I. 168. 25) is the Potana or Potali of the 
Jdtakas (Raychaudhuri, PHAI, p. 121). It has been identified with Paithan or 
Pratishthana on the north bank of the Godavari, 28 miles to the south of 
Aurangabad — Dey, GD, pp. 157, 159. 

33. For the account of Rama we have mainly relied on the Rdmdyana. 

34. Ancient settlements of Takshasila are found near the Bhir mound near Shah- 
dheri which lies 20 miles north-west of Rawalpindi (Marshall — Guide to Taocila), 
Pushkaravatl may be identified with Charsadda near the confluence of the 
Kubha and Suvastu, 17 miles north-west of Peshawar. 

35. North Panchala, called Ahichchhatra, comprised the modern Rohilkhand district 
in the U.P., and had its capital at Ahichchatra identified with modern Ram- 
nagar (Dey, GD, p. 2). South Panchala, which incorporated the old kingdom of 
Kanyakubja, consisted of the districts of Agra and Cawnpore with its capitals 
at Makandi and Kampilya (modern Kampil, 28 miles east of Fatehgarh — Dey, 
GD, p. 88). 

36. The problem of the Dd^ardpia (battle of ten kings) has been di.scussed in 
section II of this chapter. 

37. Mhh (Cr. Ed.), I, 89. 31-43. 

38. AlHT, pp. 76, 281. 

39. AlHT, p. 113, fn. 9. 

40. Hari^ I. 30. 10-14; Vdyu P.. 93. 21-26; Brahma P., 12. 9-15; Brahmdn^a P., III. 
68. 20-26; also Mhh, XII. 150-52; cf. Arthasastra, Mysore, 1919, p. II. 

41. Mhh (Cr. Ed.), I, 105. 7-22. 

42. The life of Krishna has been reconstructed on the basis of the old and authentic ‘j 

Puranas, the Harivaihsa and the Mahdbhdrata. — See Munshi, Glory that wast 
Gurjaradesa, I. pp. 120-24. ^ 

43. Cf. Munshi, Glory that was Gurjaradesa, I, pp. 111-27. 

44. The account of the Kauravas and the Pandavas has been based on the Mahd- 
hharata. In spite of epic embellishments, the kernel of the story may be regarded 
as historical, 

45. Similarly some Pur^as begin the “future"’ about a century after the Bharata 
War. (Pargiter, AlHT, pp, 51-4.) 

46. AlHT, pp. 283-4. 

47. JR AS, 1914, p. 1027. 

48. JRAS, 1913, p. 889. 

49. Ved. Ind. II. p. 187. 

50. Gopatha Brdhmana, 1.2. 10 fl; Vcd. Ind., II. p. 133. 

51. Mhh (Cr. Ed.), I. 89. 31-43. 

52. AlHT, p. 120. 

53. AlHT, p. 281. 

54. CAl, pp. 83-98. 

55. BV, II. vP. 72-76. 

56. Nirukta, II. 24, 25; Mhh, XII. 60. 39; Mann, VH. 41; Pargiter. AlHT, p. 120. 

57. Ghurye, POC, IX. p. 950. 

58. Ait. Br., VII. 27; VIII, 21; ^at. Br., XI. 5. 5. 13; XIH. 5. 4. 1-4. 

59 Mhh, XII. 150. 2; PHAl, p, 12. 

60. Hart, III. 2.5-6, 28-9; 5.11-7. 

61. Cf. BV, II. pp. 72-6. 

62. I^at. Br., XIII. 5. 4. 1 ff. 

63. Mhh, Xn. 150. 3. 

64. Hari, I. 30. 

65. Han, I. 30. 6-16. 

66. Cf. Hari, I. 32. 100-1, 105. 

67. AV, XX. 127. 7-10. 


321 



THE VEDIC AGE 


68. Brih. Up, III. 3. 

68a. AlHT, p. v. 

69. Mhh (Cr. Ed.), III. 86. 9. 

69a. Cf. D. R. Bhandarkar — Carmichael Lectures, 1918, pp. 6-7. 

70. Pargiter, however, infers from the traditional account that the kings belonged 
to three different stocks or races of which the Ailas were the Aryans, the 
Saudyumna stock, the Muni^a race and its branch the Mon-Khmer folk in the 
east, and the Mimva stock (i.e. the remaining descendants of Manu), the Dravi- 
dians (AIHT, p. 295). Traditional history associates the Ailas or the Lunar 
dynasty with the Himalayas. Pargiter, therefore, interprets the traditional 
accounts as stating that the Aryans came into India from the Himalayan regions 
(ibid., pp. 297 ff.). But the term Aryan is not confined to the Ailas dlone; it 
comprises all the so-called stocks enumerated by Pargiter. There is absolutely 
no differentiation between the Solar and the Lunar dynasties as regards status 
or dignity. 

71. Manu, X. 8. 

72. Kennedy, JRAS, 1915, p. 516. 

73. Cf. Viswanatha, International Law in Ancient India, pp. 25, 45; Racial synthesis in 
Hindu Culture, p. 9. 


322 





CHAPTER XV 


FROM THE ACCESSpN OF PARIkSHIT TO THE 
END OF THE BARHADRATHA DYNASTY 

j 

The Pur^as liave preserved a list of the kingdoms that flourish- 
ed at the end of the Bharata War and continued till they were all 
absorbed by the great Nanda empire of Magadha in the fourth cen- 
tury B.C. In addition to the kingdom of Magadha, ruled at first 
by the Barhadrathas, and then by other dynasties, the Puranic list 
refers to the Pauravas, Aikshvakus, PanchMas,’ K^s, Haihayas, 
Kalihgas, Aimakas, Maithilas, ^urasenas and Vitihotras. The area 
embracing these states comprised the eastern part of North India, 
the middle country, and some parts towards its west; but the coun- 
tries further west and north-west have not been referred to. Of 
the various dynasties mentioned, the Puranas deal in some detail 
only with the Pauravas, Aikshvakus and the dynasties of Magadha, 
but give merely the number of kings in the case of other contem- 
porary dynasties. The detailed history of the period recorded in 
the Puranas is thus confined more or less to the region noW repre- 
sented by the United Provinces and South Bihar. ^ 

1. THE PAURAVAS 

The first Paurava king after the Bharata War was Parikshit, 
son of Abhimanyu, and grandson of Arjuna. Parikshit was well- 
versed in the science of duties of kings and was endowed with noble 
qualities. The story of the conquests of Parikshit or of the pros- 
perity of the Kuru kingdom during his reign, recorded respectively 
in the Puranas and Atharvaveda, seems to relate to an earlier king 
of that name. 

The Kuru kingdom over which Parikshit ruled extended from 
the Sarasvati to the Gahga according to epic tradition. It corres- 
ponded to modern Thanesvar, Delhi, and the upper Gangetic Dodb.^ 
The Kaliyuga era is said to have started in the reign of Parikshit 
after the death of Krishna, and Parikshit is reported to have chased 
away the Kali out of his kingdom, which merely indicates his ex- 
cellent and benign rule. It is said that one day when lost in a 
forest, while hunting, Parikshit met a sage and asked him the way. 
The sage was observing a vow of silence and did not reply. Being 
angry Parikshit placed a dead snake round the sage’s neck and 
went away. The sage’s son cursed Parikshit, and foretold that 
within a week the king would be bitten to death by Takshaka, king 
of the snakes. Despite the king’s elaborate precautions, the curse 
had its effect and Parikshit died of snake bite on the appointed day. 

323 



THE VEDIC AGE 


This mythical story seems to suggest a genuine historical fact. The 
rise of the Nagas in Gandhara has already been referred to. It 
appears that taking advantage of the weakened condition of the 
Pauravas as the result of the Bbarata War, Takshaka, king of the 
Nagas, marched against Hastinapura and king Parikshit evidently 
died in his attempt to check their attacks. 

Parikshit ’s son Janamejaya was a minor when he was installed 
king. To avenge his father s death Janamejaya invaded Taksha- 
sila and slaughtered countless Nagas. It was only through the in- 
tercession of Astika that Janamejaya stopped this slaughter. Tak- 
shaka appears to have escaped safely. The conquest of Taxila in 
the extreme north-west indicates that the intervening Madra or 
Central Punjab also was under the control of Janamejaya. The 
slaughter of innumerable Nagas has been mythologized into the 
Sarpasatra (snake-sacrifice) of Janamejaya where serpents fell as 
oblations into the sacred fire through the spell of the Mantras/^^ 
Janamejaya was a powerful and strong monarch and he re-esta- 
blished the Kuru dominion. After conquering Taxila and uprooting 
the Nagas, Janamejaya appears to have made Taxila his headquar- 
ters for some time. The story of the MaJidbhdrata was recited to 
Janamejaya at Taxila by Vaisampayana.^ Asvapati of Kekaya was 
a contdhiporary of Parikshit and Janamejaya. When Janamejaya 
subjugated Gandhara, Asvapati Kekaya, whose territory lay to the 
east of Gandhara, probably accepted Janamejaya ’s suzerainty. Asva- 
pati was famous for his good government and philosophical know- 
ledge. It is not definitely known whether Asvapati was a title or 
a personal name, but it seems to be more likely that it was the title 
of the rulers of Kekaya. 

Kakshasena, a brother of Janamejaya, seems to have esta- 
blished a separate kingdom. From the references in the Panchci- 
vimsa Brdhmana which states that Driti, apparently priest of king 
Abhijfratarin, son of Kakshasena, performed a sacrifice in Khan- 
<^ava, in which lay Indra-prastha,’-’ it appears that the junior branch 
resided at Indraprastha. A further reference to the ‘'Abhipratari- 
nas’' (i.e. descendants of Abhipratarin) in the same text as “the 
mightiest of all their relations’'® suggests that the junior branch 
excelled the other branches of the Kurus. The Kuru kings at In- 
draprastha continued to rule there long after the destruction of 
Hastinapura and the migration of the senior branch to Kausambi.*^ 

Janamejaya was succeeded by his son Satanlka, who married a 
princess from Videha. To Satamka was born Asvamedhadatta who 
was succeeded by his son Adhisimakpishna. None of these descen- 
dants have been definitely referred to in the Vedic texts and the 
exact relationship of some Kurus mentioned in the Vedic texts is 
not clear. It appears that Satanika was the contempK)rary of Ugra- 
sena Janaka of Videha, and Asvamedhadatta of Pravahana Jaivali 

324 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE ACCESSION OF PARlKSHIT 

of the Pahchalas, both of whom were philosopher kings.® In the 
reign of Adhisimakrishna, when Divakara was ruling in Ayodhya 
and Sena jit in Magadha, the Purai:ias are said to have been recited 
for the first time in the twelve-year sacrifice in the Naimisharanya 
forest on the river Gomati in Ayodhya. 6aunaka officiated as the 
head sacrificer and to him were recited the Mahdhhdrata and the 
Purai?as as handed down by the Sutas.^ Thus there seems to have 
been a collection and edition of the traditional accounts for the first 
time, on the occasion of the Naimisha sacrifice. The lists of dynas- 
ties and kings that subsequently ruled were recorded in the future 
tense as if they were prophecies. The Matsya and Vdyu begin their 
“future kings” after the time of Adhisimaki'islma. 

During the reign of Nichakshu, the son and successor of Adhi- 
simakrishna, the Kuru kingdom appears to have passed through 
severe calamities. The capital Hastinapura was washed away by 
the Ganges. The devastation of crops in the Kuru country by 
locusts (or hail-storms), mentioned in the Chhdndogya Upanishad,^ ' 
is also possibly to be referred to this period. The famine brought 
on by locusts was probably followed by heavy downpour flooding 
the country. Consequently not only Hastinapura but the whole of the 
northern Dodh was seriously affected. The Kuru people evacuated 
and migrated in a body over 300 miles down- stream and settled in 
Vatsabhumi, with Kausrimbi, (modern Kosam on the Yamuna near 
Allahabad) as their capital. This wholesale migi’ation, according to 
Pargiter, was due to the pressure from the Punjab.^"- But the ex- 
planation given in traditional accounts, coupled with the locust 
menace, satisfactorily accounts for the migration. The Vatsas, it 
may be recalled, were under the Paurava king of Kasi,^® and sided 
with the Pan(^avas in the Bharata War. 

The history of the Paurava kings of Kausambi is obscure. The 
Puranas give only a list of twenty-three kings after Nichakshu, up 
to Kshemaka, the last in the line. Among them Satanika and his son 
Udayana arc interesting and important figures. Satanik.i, also styl- 
ed Parantapa, is said to have attacked Champa, the capital of Ahga, 
during the reign of Dadhivahana. Udayana succeeded his father 
on the Vatsa throne. According to Buddhist accounts, Udayana 
was born on tiie same day as the Buddha. Whether we accept it 
or not, thefe are good grounds to believe that Udayana was con- 
temporaneous with the Buddha and also with Pradyota Mahasena 
of Avanti and Ajatasatru of Magadha. His history will, therefore, 
be more appropriately dealt with in the next volume. 

2. THE KOSALAS 

The Puranas give a list of 31 Ikshvaku kings of Kosala begin- 
ning with Brihadbala who was killed in the Bharata War. His 
sixth descendant Divakara was a contemporary of the Paurava king 

325 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Adhisimarkrishna- This Puranic list serves as a typical instance of 
the confusion brought about by jumbling together different historical 
traditions at a late date. For this genealogical list of the Ikshvaku 
kings of Kosala includes the names of Sakya, Suddhodana, his son 
Siddhartha and the latter’s son Rahula, immediately before Prasena- 
jit, who is known from Buddhist sources as the son of Mahakosala 
and a contemporary of the Buddha. Without, therefore, relying 
much on this inaccurate and incomplete list we may glean a few inte- 
resting facts about Kosala from the Buddhist literature. 

It appears from the Buddhist account that the Kosala kings had 
their capitals at Saketa and Sravasti in addition to Ayodhya. Ayo- 
dhya was probably the earliest capital followed by Saketa, and Sra- 
vasti was the last. ' Ayodhya was a town on the river Sarayu. Saketa 
is often taken to be identical with Ayodhya, but the separate men- 
tion of both as existing in Buddha’s time suggests that they were 
possibly adjoining cities like London and Westminster. .Sravasti 
(in Pali SavatthI) has been identified with Sahet-Mahet, on the 
south bank of the Rapti on the borders of the Gonda and Bahraich 
districts of the United Provinces. In Buddha’s time, Ayodhya had 
sunk into comparative insignificance but the other two figured 
among the six great cities of India. The Buddhist works mention 
some kings of Kosala whose names are not found in the dynastic 
lists. '' ® 

We learn from the Buddhist accounts that there were frequent 
wars between the neighbouring kingdoms of Kosala and Kasi and 
there was continued rivalry for supremacy between them. It ap- 
pears, however, that sometimes friendly relations prevailed bet- 
ween Kaii and Kosala and there were matrimonial alliances, and 
probably the countries at times were under a common ruler who 
came at the head either by conquest or by inheritance.’ ' The Vedic 
texts indicate the close association of these two states by the phrase 
Kasi-Kosala. In their struggle for supremacy sometimes Kasi and 
sometimes Kosala emerged victorious. Though the Kasis appear 
to have succeeded in the beginning, the final victory went to the 
Kosalas. The results of these contests, as recorded in the Buddhist 
literature, can be grouped in four successive stages as has been sug- 
gested by Dr. Law.^® 

The canonical legend in which Brahmadatta, the powerful king 
of Kasi, in his campaigns of conquests, defeated the weak Kosalan 
king Dighiti, marks the first stage in the Kasi-Kosala struggle. 
Brahmadatta then ordered the execution of Dighiti and his queen 
who were captured in the Kasi realm living in disguise. Then the 
Kosala prince Dighayu gained confidence of king Brahmadatta, was 
raised to the position of a general, and was reinstated on the Kosalan 
throne on account of his generosity in not killing Brahmadatta in 
revenge. In the second stage, illustrated in the R^jovdda Jdtaka, 

326 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE ACCESSION OF PARIKSHIT 

both Kasi and Kosala appear as equally powerful realms flourishing 
side by side, respectively under Brahmadatta and Maliika. The 
K^i ruler followed the religious principle of conquest of wrath by 
kindness, whereas the Kosala king adhered to the strong adminis- 
trative principle of treating hard with hardness and soft with soft- 
ness. The Maitdsllava Jdtaka brings out the third stage, in which 
the Kosala king took advantage of the good nature and religious 
tendencies of the Kasi king and invaded the neighbouring kingdom. 

The final stage marks the total absorption of the Kasi kingdom 
under the Kosala king Mahakosala, who has been mentioned as the 
sovereign of both Kasi and Kosala. From the fact that the Bud- 
dhist records do not refer to contests between Kosala and any other 
tribe or state, it would appear that the gradual* absorption of the 
clans and tribes in the northern part of Kosala was effected without 
any important battle, campaign, or siege. The contact of Kosala 
with K^i, however, as we have seen, resulted in a struggle lasting 
for generations with varying fortunes till Kasi was completely sub- 
jugated by the Kosala king Kaihsa, who appears to have been a 
predecessor of Mahakosala or the great Kosala. Mahakosala was 
the father and immediate predecessor of Prasenajit (in Pali Pasenadi^. 
Dr. Raychaudhuri is inclined to identify Hiranyanabha mentioned in 
later Vedic texts with Mahakosala. Mahakosala gave his daughter 
Kosaladevi in marriage to the Magadhan king Bimbisara. The fateful 
sequel of this marriage will be described in the next volume. 

3. MAGADHA 

We have already seen in the last chapter that the Barhadratha 
dynasty ruled in Magadha at the time of the Bharata War, and that 
Jarasandha, the first great emperor of Magadha before that war, 
was succeeded by his son Sahadeva, who became an ally of the 
Pandavas, and was killed in the war. After Sahadeva, his son 
Somadhi became king at Girivraja, at the foot of which Raj agriha, 
the ancient capital of Magadha, grew up. The old site of Raj agriha 
corresponds to modern Rajgir in the Patna district. Sena jit, the 
sixth successor of Somadhi, was a contemporary of the Paurava 
Adhisimakrishna and Kosala Divakara. Ripunjaya, the twenty-first 
in descent from Somadhi, is stated to have been the last king of the 
Barhadrathia dynasty. Ripunjaya is said to have been killed by his 
minister Pulika (variants: Su'’- Mu**- or Punika, Pulaka) who then 
installed his son Pradyota on the throne. The Pradyota dynasty, 
according to the Puranas, lasted for five generations covering a period 
of 138 years, and was supplanted by Sisunaga who, after placing 
his son to rule over Kasi, fixed his capital at Girivraja (or Raja- 
griha).^^ Bimbisara and Ajatasatru appear in the Puranic lists as 
fifth and sixth in descent from Sisunaga, who founded a new royal 
dynasty, called the Saisunaga. 


327 



THE VEDIC AGE 


But the Purauas have distorted history, and most of the above 
statements regarding the events following the death of Purahjaya 
are contradicted not only by the testimony of other Sanskrit sources 
and Buddhist accounts, but by the Puranas themselves. Here, as in 
the case of Kosala, genuine historical facts have been wrongly 
jumbled together, and it appears that the independent lists of the 
dynasties of Pradyota, Sisunaga and Bimbisara have been placed in 
a false sequence and supplied with imaginary connecting links. 

That the Pradyotas ruled at Avanti would be evident from the 
statement in the Matsya Purana itself,^^ ^nd we have no reliable 
evidence that there was any Pradyota dynasty of Magadha. The 
first Pradyota was a contemporary of Bimbisara of Magadha accord- 
ing to Pali accourfts, and a co-ordination of the Puranas with other 
Sanskrit literature also supports the same conclusion; but the Pura- 
nas separate Pradyota and Bimbisara by about ten generations. If 
Sisunaga destroyed the fame of the Pradyotas, he must come about 
four or five generations after Chanda Pradyota, the first king of the 
Pradyota dynasty. Sisunaga has been placed as the progenitor of 
the Bimbisara family by the Puranas, whereas the Pali accounts 
rightly place him four or five generations after Pradyota (and hence 
also Bimbisara, his contemporary) and make him the founder of a 
dynasty that succeeded the dynasty of Bimbisara. 

The Puranas themselves in a way indicate the posteriority of 
Sisunaga to Bimbisara as they include Var^asi in Sisunaga's domi- 
nions, because Bimbisara and Ajatasatru were the first to establish 
Magadha domination in Kasi. The hostility between Avanti and 
Magadha, again, is to be met with for the first time in Ajatasatru’s 
reign. There is no trace of it during the period of Bimbisara, and 
hence Sisunaga who supplanted the Pradyotas must come after Bim- 
bisara and Ajatasatru. The probable reason for placing Sisunaga 
before the Bimbisara- Ajatasatru group appears to be that Sisunaga 
had his capital at Raj agriha, and as Udayin was credited in the 
Puranic accounts with the removal of the capital to Pataliputra,2‘^ 
it was thought by the ill-informed Puranic chroniclers of a late 
date that Sisunaga came before Udayin. But the statement in the 
Mdldlankdravatthu that Rajagriha lost its rank as a royal city from 
the time of Sisunaga indicates that Sisunaga flourished after the 
palmy days of Rajagriha, i.e. the period of Bimbisara and •Ajatasatru. 
Sisunaga probably chose the old capital Rajagriha as his head- 
quarters in order to meet the attacks from Avanti on that part of 
Magadha. 

We may thus hold that the Barhadratha dynasty in Magadha 
ended with Ripunjaya who was probably killed by his minister, and 
was succeeded by Bimbisara. The history of this famous king who 
laid the foundations of the greatness of Magadha will be related in 
the next volume. 


328 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE ACCESSION OF PARiKSHIT 

4. OTHER KINGDOMS 

In addition to the three important kingdoms of Magadha, 
Kosala, and Vatsa, mentioned above, several others flourished during 
the period following the great Bharata War. But their history is 
little known, and we have to rest content with a few casual notices, 
gleaned from different sources. Beginning from the west we have 
the Panchala kingdom, the total number of whose rulers from the 
Bharata War up to Mahapadma Nanda is given as twenty-seven in 
the Puranas though no names are mentioned. 

Parichakra, Kampilya (or Kamplla) and Ahichchhatra are the 
important cities in Panchala that have been mentioned in the Vedic 
and Puranic texts. Reference has already been made to the first 
two cities. Ahichchhatra has been identified with a ruined site of 
the same name near modern Ramnagar in the Bareilly district. The 
city was still considerable in extent when visited by the Chinese 
pilgrim Hiuen Tsang in the seventh century. 

Reference has already been made to the division of the Panchala 
into north and south during the reign of king Drupada. A Jataka 
story seems to suggest that a Chedi prince went to the north and 
formed the Uttara Panchala kingdom with colonists from the Pan- 
chala and Chedi countries.^ The Aitareya Brdhmana (VH!. 23) 
represents Durmukha as a universal monarch who made extensive 
conquests in every direction and was anointed by Brihaduktha. 

Probably the Durmukha (Dummukha) of the Brahmanical and 
Buddhist accounts is identical with Dvimukha of Panchala, who, 
according to Jain tradition, was a Pratyeka-Buddha. Some accounts 
associate the name of Brahmadatta, legendary king, with Panchala. 

We have next the kingdom of Surasena with its capital at 
Mathura on the Yamuna. Surasena (modern Muttra district includ- 
ing some of the territory still further south) before the period of 
the Bharata War was under the occupation of the scions of the 
Yadu family. The Puranas mention twenty-three Surasenas after 
the Bharata War up to the period of Nanda, but no dynastic lists 
are available. 

To the south of Surasena lay Avanti. Avanti roughly corres- 
ponds to central Malwa, Nimar and the adjoining parts of the Central 
Provinces.^® The capital of the state was also known as Avanti or 
Ujjayini, identified with modern Ujjain on the Sipra, a tributary of 
the Chambal. Ujjayini was a very important city in ancient India 
both politically and commercially, and it is rather strange that the 
rulers of so famous a city have not been directly mentioned in the 
Puranic accounts. It is probable, however, that the twenty-eight 
(according to some Puranas twenty-four) Haihayas (the descendants 
of Yadu) who are said to have ruled after the Bharata War were 

329 



THE VEDIC AGE 


really the rulers of Avanti. For it may be recalled that the Avantis 
were one of the five branches of the Haihayas.^^ According to 
some scholars the twenty Vitihotras who are mentioned in the 
Puranas as having ruled after the Bharata War, were kings of 
Avanti.^^a definite information is available regarding the 

history of Avanti after Vinda and Anuvinda, who flourished at the 
time of the Bharata War. When we next hear of Avanti, more than 
five centuries later, it was under the Pradyotas, as has been related 
above. 

Special importance attaches to the kingdom of Videha as it was 
a great centre of culture and learning. The Videha dynasty, or 
the race of the Janakas according to Puranic accounts, ended with 
Kriti, who has been identified with Kritakshana, son of Bahulasva, the 
ruler at the time of the Bharata War.^s But as we find mention of 
Janakas of Videha even after the period of Yudhishthira, the identi- 
fication of the last of the Janakas does not seem to be correct as is 
rightly pointed out by Raychaudhuri.2^> Kriti may reasonably be 
identified with Karala (Janaka) the Vaideha, mentioned in the 
Arthasdstra, who is said to have perished along with his kingdom 
and relatives on account of his violation of a Brahmana maiden. 
This story is confirmed in the Buddhist accounts, which make 
Kalara the last of the line. 

The great king Janaka of Videha, and the sage Yajfiavalkya, 
from whom he learnt Brahmavidyd (spiritual knowledge), are famous 
names in Indian history, but their chronology is uncertain and there 
might have been more than one pair bearing these names. It ap- 
pears from the Mahdhhdrata that one Janaka was ruling over Videha 
at the time of Janamejaya, son of Parikshit, and Svetaketu, son of 
Uddalaka, a prominent figure in Janaka’s court, attended Janame- 
jaya’s snake sacrifice.^ ^ The philosopher king Janaka of the Upa- 
nishads was a contemporary of Yajfiavalkya and Asvapati, king of 
the Kekayas, but unfortunately both Yajfiavalkya and Asvapati are 
also family names, just like Janaka, so that no chronological deduc- 
tions can be drawn from this synchronism. Dr. Raychaudhuri places 
the Vedic Janaka, whom he takes to be the father of Sita, after the 
date of Janamejaya P^rlkshita, the descendant of the Pandavas.^^ 
This identification goes against many well-established synchronism 
in traditional history and fails to account for the period 6f Rama and 
the subsequent Ikshvakus in the scheme of history. 

There is, however, no doubt that one pair of Janaka, the philo- 
sopher king, and Yajfiavalkya flourished after the period of the 
Bharata War, as gatanika, the successor of Janamejaya, is said to 
be the disciple of this Yajfiavalkya who was himself a disciple of 
Vaisampayana. Ugrasena may probably be the personal name of 
this Janaka, though this name does not occur in dynastic lists. 

It may be noted that the fame of the Janakas of Videha, both before 

330 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE ACCESSION OF PARIKSHIT 

and after the Bharata War, rests more on their patronage of learning, 
culture, philosophy, and spiritual attainments than on their martial 
exploits or sacrifices. Kings of Videha usually maintained friendly 
relations with neighbouring states and formed matrimonial alliances 
with different contemporary ruling families. 

The degeneracy in character of the last monarch, as already 
stated, brought the Videha dynasty to an end, and the overthrow 
of the monarchy was followed by the rise of a republic. This poli- 
tical revolution in Videha is one of the important events during this 
period. In Buddha’s time the Videhas, along with the Lichchhavis 
of Vaisali and other clans, formed a powerful confederation known 
as the Vajjis. The Kasi people apparently had a hand in the over- 
throw of the Videhan monarchy, as frequent ‘struggles between 
Kasi and Videha have been referred to in an earlier period. Perhaps 
a junior branch of the royal family of Kasi established itself in 
Videha. The Puranas mention twenty-eight Maithilas as having 
ruled after the Bharata War. They were probably rulers of Videha. 

The traditional accounts contain no information about the king- 
dom of Kasi after the Bharata War beyond mentioning that there 
were twenty-four Kasi kings down to the period of the Nandas. The 
Kasis, being contiguous to the Kosalas and Videhas, naturally had 
some connections with these states. The later Vedic texts ihention 
I^asi-Kosala and Kasi-Videha together, stating also that sometimes 
these had the same king and a common Purohita, which indicates 
the close contact that subsisted between these three states, Kasi, 
Kosala, and Videha.^'^ 

The ill-feeling and rivalry between Kasi and Kosala which is 
indicated by Buddhist texts has already been referred to in connec- 
tion with the Kosalas. The Assaka Jdtaka testifies to the exten- 
sion of the Kksi suzerainty to Potali in the kingdom of Assaka in 
Southern India. Kasi, the capital of the state, was the premier 
city in all India, extending over twelve leagues as compared to seven 
leagues which was the extent of Mithila and Indraprastha.^^^ On 
account of the importance of the city of K^i or Benares, it was the 
coveted prize of the neighbouring states. According to the Puranic 
account, during different periods in its history. Kasi came under 
the sway of three successive suzerain powers of Northern India — 
the Pauravas of Vatsa, the Ikshvakus of Kosala and the kings of 
Magadha.^^ In the interval between the decline of Vatsa and the 
rise of Kosala, Kasi appears to have enjoyed independence under 
its famous king, Brahmadatta, who conquered Kosala, possibly about 
a century and a half before Buddha’s time. 

To the east of Magadha lay Anga. It has alreadv been stated 
(p. 325) that ^atanlka, the father of Udayana of Kausambi, attacked 
Champa, the capital of Dadhivahana, king of Anga who, according 
to Puranic accounts, was the son of Anga. The Jain tradition re- 

331 



THE VEDIC AGE 


presents Dadhivahana's daughter Chandana or Chandrabala as the 
first female to embrace Jainism shortly after Mahavira’s death. In 
the confusion consequent on Satanika’s invasion of Champa, Chan- 
dana fell into the hands of a robber, but she is said to have main- 
tained the vows of the order throughout. Anga seems to have been 
on terms of hostility all along with its neighbouring state of Maga- 
dha, and at one time included parts of Magadha, as would appear 
from the mention of Raj agriha as a city of Anga. The Anga suze- 
rainty would also be evident from the defeat of king Bhaftiya of 
Magadha by king Brahmadatta of Anga. But the Anga kingdom 
lost its independence when Bimbisara, son of Bhattiya, avenged his 
father’s defeat and killed the Anga king Brahmadatta, annexed the 
capital Champa, and continued there as viceroy till he left for Raja- 
griha on his father’s death. Bimbisara later converted Anga into 
a separate province and appointed his son Ajatasatru (Kunika) as 
governor with headquarters at Champa. 

The existence of several other kingdoms during this period is 
known to us, but we know hardly anything about them. The Pura- 
nas refer to thirty-two rulers of Kalinga, and twenty-five of the 
Asmaka kingdom, but do not give any other details. There were 
also the kingdoms of Gandhara and Kamboja in the west, but they 
do not* come into prominence until somewhat later. There were 
probably other kingdoms of which we do not even know the names. 

On the whole, the history of India, during the period of 400 or 
800 years following the Bharata War, according as we place that 
event in 100 or 1400 B.C., is only known to us in vague outline. 
All that we can say definitely is that Northern India was divided 
into a large number of states and, so far as our knowledge goes, 
no paramount power arose within this long period which could 
effectively exercise its supremacy over all or even a large number 
of them. We can dimly discern the struggles for supremacy, and 
even the ideal of imperialism so strongly stressed in the Maka- 
hhdrata was by no means absent, but we do not note any substan- 
tial progress towards the political unification of India. 


1. The omission of the states in the Punjab and the north-west is significant, and 
probably indicates that these states were seriously affected by the disorganiza- 
tion consequent on the Bharata War. We find the wild tribe of the Nagas, who 
were probably inhabiting Gandhara, suddenly rising to power antt taking pos- 
session of Takshasila. They also invaded the Paurava kingdom, which had be- 
come feeble, and reached up to Hastinapura where they killed the Paurava king 
Parikshit. 

2. PHAI, p. 20. 

3. The S'arpasatra mentioned in the Panchavimsa Brdhmana at which one Jana- 

mejaya is said to have officiated as a priest is quite distinct from the Sarpdsatra 
instituted by king Janamejaya, as it was for securing preservation and well- 
being of the serpents, whereas the epic Sarpasatra was for the destruction of 
the serpents (Panch. Br., XXV. 15. 3; Ved. Ind., I, 274). Raychaudhuri regards 
the epic account of the Surpasaira as having no historical basis, but accepts the 
conquest of Taxila by Janamejaya as a historical fact (PHAI, 30-31). But the 
Brahmana passages on which he relies for support (Ait. Br._, 21; !§at. Br., 

332 



TRADITIONAL HISTORY FROM THE ACCESSION OF PARlKSHIT 

XIII. 5.4. 1-3) relate to the universal conquests of Janamejaya, the predecessor 
of the Pandavas, and are stated in connection with his horse- sacrifice. Janame- 
jaya, the descendant of the Pandavas, also started a horse-sacrifice, but it was 
not completed on account of some technical difficulties (Flari, III. 2. 5-6, 28-29; 
5, 11-17), and hence Janamejaya who is said to have performed horse-sacrifices 
must certainly be his ancestor. 

4. MhK XVIII. 5. 34. 

5. Panch. Br., XXV. 3. 6, XIV, 1. 12. 

6. Panch. Br., II. 9. 4. 

7. Raychaudhuri, PHAI, p. 38. According to Pargiter, “the principalities on the 
Sarasvatl and at Indraprastha disappeared, and Hastinapura remained the out- 
post of the Hindu kingdoms of North India” (AIHT, p. 285). 

8. Pargiter, AIHT, pp. 328, 330. 

9. Pargiter, DKA, pp. 1, 4, 9-10, 15. 

10. DKA, p, 5. 

11. Chhd.ndogya Up., I. 10, 1: *‘*Maiachihaieshu Kuriishn . . 

12. AIHT, p. 285. 

13. Pargiter, AIHT, pp. 269-70. 

14. JASB, 1914, p. 321. 

15. Rhys Davids, Buddhist India, p. 39. 

16. Such as Sagaradeva. Bharata, Ahgirasa, Ruchi, Suruchi, Pratapa, Mahapratapa, 
Sudarsana, Mahasammata, Muchala, Kalyana, ^atadhanu, Makhadeva, Sadhina. 

17. Law, Tribes, p. 127. 

18. Ibid., pp. 125-7. 

19. CHI, I p. 180. 

20. PHAI, p. 89. 

21. Pargiter, DKA. pp. 18-22. 

22. Maisya P., 272. 1; Brihadraih sshvatiteshn Vitihotreshv Avantishu : Pulakah 

si^aminavi halva svap'atramabhishekshyati. 

23. Cf. Maisya P., 272. 6; Vardnasydm sutajh sthdpya. 

24. Cf. Matsya P., 272. 6; Vayu P., 99. 319. 

25. Law, Tribes, p. 32. 

26. Raychaudhuri, PHAI, p. 122. 

27. Cf. Matsya P., 43 . 48-9. 

27a. JBORS. 1915, p. 10. 

28. AIHT, pp. 96, 149, 330. 

29. PHAI, p. 69. 

30. Arthasdstva, Mysore Ed., 1919, p. 11. 

31. Mbh (Cr. Ed ), I. 48. 7; cf. III. 132. 16, 19: also III. 135. 21-3. 

32. PHAI, p. 47. 

33. Mbh (Cr. Ed.), III. 134. 1. 

34. PHAI, pp. 71-2. 

35. ^dhkhdyana ^S, xvi, 29. 5; Baudkayana ^S, XXI, 3; Gopatha Br.. i, 2. 9; Law, 
Tribes, p. 127. 

36. Cf. Jataka Nos. 515 (Sambhava), 489 (Suruchi) and 545 (Vidhurapandita). 

37. CHI, I, p. 316. 

38. Hardy, Manual of Buddhism, p. 163 n. 


333 




BOOK. FIVE 

THE AGE OF THE RIK-SAMHITA 




CHAPTER XVI 


LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 

THE language of the Rigveda is the oldest known Indo-Aryan 
language. In several respects,^ it is true, its specific characteriza- 
tion has gone further than that of the oldest forms of Iranian speech 
known to us. But that does not warrant the assumption that the 
Rigvedic language is later than Gathic Avestan. For the innova- 
tions differentiating the language of the Rigveda from that of the 
Avesta are for the most part not such as may be expected to develop 
in course of normal and gradual evolution, but are rather sugges- 
tive of a violent deflection from the natural course. Thus the nor- 
mal and natural tendency of all the known Indo-European languages 
has been to spirantize the occlusives either through an overdose 
(as in Germanic) or through an underdose (as in Celtic) of expend- 
ed expiratory energy; but the language of the Rigveda, instead of 
spirantizing the Indo-Iranian occlusives, has on the contrary occlud- 
ed a number of Indo-Iranian spirants, eliminated some, and retain- 
ed only the surd sibilants. The appearance of a whole series of 
cerebrals, unknown in any other Indo-European dialect, points, like- 
wise, rather to violent deflection than to gradual evolution. Similar 
violent deflection from the normal course of evolution cannot, how- 
ever, be pointed out in Iranian. It would, therefore, be wrong to 
consider the innovations of both Avestan and Sanskrit in the same 
light, or to draw any conclusion as to their relative chronology from 
a comparison of those innovations. 

Regarded from this point of view, it would moreover seem that 
the whole problem of Indo-European phonetics requires restatement 
and reconsideration. It has been always tacitly assumed that Sans- 
krit, which possesses so few spirants, gives the truest picture of 
Indo-European consonantism; but that is, at the best, an unproved 
hypothesis. What is an incontestable fact is that a strong spiran- 
tizing tendency was present already in the basic Indo-European 
language, and that this tendency, already in the later Indo-European 
epoch, causfed the emergence of a whole new series of palatals out 
of the velars. 

Moreover, in all the better known Indo-European dialects of 
the historical age, the number of spirants is much larger than in 
Sanskrit. And when we add to all this the further consideration 
that in actual pronunciation the true occlusive — which is in each 
case an ideal norm between the results of the expenditure of too 
much and too little expiratory energy — is hardly ever heard in any 
language, then perhaps it would seem obvious and necessary to 

337 



THE VEDIC AGE 


consider the imposing system of occlusives registered by Sanskrit 
grammarians not as a faithful picture of the original state of things 
in the basic Indo-European, but as the result of later variation. 

It is not too much to suggest that also the sonant aspirates, 
which are found in no other Indo-European dialect, are but the 
Indian version of Indo-European sonant spirants. It appears, there- 
fore, that not only the Indo-European vowel-system has been fun- 
damentally transformed in Sanskrit, as is universally recognized 
to-day, but also that, at least in one respect, namely in respect of 
spirants, Sanskrit consonantism has innovated no less. And this 
holds good for the oldest recorded form of Sanskrit, namely the 
language of the Rigveda. 

The Rigvedic language is hieratic, and therefore to some extent 
exclusive and artificial; but it is on that account by no means an 
instrument of mere suggestion without any power of direct and 
forceful expression, as is the case, in a great measure, with Classical 
Sanskrit. On the contrary in pithiness it excels even the Latin of 
the Classical Age. That is largely because the Rigvedic poets strove 
throughout to present a complete idea, though not always a com- 
plete sentence, in every verse-foot (pada). Pddas of this kind, 
usually of eight to twelve syllables, were naturally not easy to 
construct, and, therefore, ready-made Pddas have often been re- 
peated in the Rigveda with or without any material variation^ 
though not so indiscriminately as were the Homeric verse-frag- 
ments in the Iliad.^~ 

The verb generally used in the Rigveda to express the art of 
versification is taksh, which literally means “to hew.” Just as a 
carpenter, by applying the art of his trade, constructs beautiful 
pieces of furniture, so does the poet — kdru (literally; “manual 
worker”) — manufacture beautiful verses and hymns with which to 
win the favour of the gods, either for himself, or more frequently, 
for his patron. Such hymns were regarded directly as gifts of gods 
(devatta). It is clear that verse-making had already become a re- 
cognized profession in the Rigvedic age, and also that this profes- 
sion had become a monopoly of the priestly classes. In the hands 
of the professional verse-makers Rigvedic poetry attained an amaz- 
ing degree of technical perfection, but true poetry copld not and 
did not flourish in the Rigvedic atmosphere, surcharged as it was 
with a spirit of bargaining between gods and men. Poetry of a 
high order springs either from absolute self-surrender, or from abso- 
lute individualism. But the spirit of Rigvedic poetry always oscil- 
lates between these two extremes, without ever attaining the highest 
altitude of either. Barring the all-pervading element of ritualism 
that has deadened its life, Rigvedic poetry therefore strikes the reader 
as intensely human, though not as actually sublime* With these 

338 



LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 

few preliminary remarks about Rigvedic language and literature, 
we shall now proceed to a more detailed analysis of both. 

1. LANGUAGE 

In its phonetic structure the Rigvedic language shows practi- 
cally the same sounds as the Classical Sanskrit, the only notable 
exceptions being I and Ih, which taxe the place of intervocalic d and 
dh in the Rigveaa. But the frequency of the sounds is not the same 
in the Rigveda and in Classical Sanskrit. The relative frequency 
of r and I in Rigvedic and later language is highly interesting. In 
the older language, I is of rare occurrence, but it extends its sphere 
more and more at the expense of r, and it is well known that in 
the Prakritic stage some dialects of eastern India had completely 
eliminated r. It is also well known on the other hand that in 
ancient Iranian every Indo-European I had become an r. During 
the intervening period, of which roughly the first half is covered 
by changing and living Sanskrit, ^ r lost more and more ground to 1. 
In the later portions of the Rigveda, I is eight times as frequent as in 
the older parts, and in the Atharvaveda it is seven times as frequent 
as in the RigvedaA Thus it is clear that increase of I in frequency 
went hand in hand with the progress of the Aryans towards the east. 
In a passage often repeated in the Brahmanas it is said that the 
Asuras suffered defeat at the hands of the gods because they mis- 
pronounced the word arayah as alayahf This would suggest that 
in the later Vedic age, when the word asura had lost its original 
meaning and became a general term of opprobrium, the propensity 
of the easterners to pronounce I for r was noticed and frowned upon 
by the orthodox Aryans. Or it may mean that the Asuras referred 
to were none but those of the incoming Aryan tribes who, being of 
a particular group with its particular phonetic laws, not only re- 
tained unchanged the Indo-European I, but also made it the repre- 
sentative of Indo-European r.® In short, the behaviour of I and r 
in the Rigveda suggests as clearly that the invading Aryans were 
not quite homogeneous in speech as the increase of I at the expense 
of r suggests increasing eastern influence on the Vedic language. 

That the Rigvedic language was not quite homogeneous is prov- 
ed also by its lack of uniformity in regard to Fortunatov’s law. 
According to this law, Indo-European I, when followed by dental 
occlusive or s, disappears after cerebralizing the following sound, 
whereas Indo-European r under similar circumstances remains. Thus 
in Skt. jathara-, the -tb- is derived from Indo-European -Itb- (cf. 
Gothic kilthei), and in Skt. hhdshate, the -sh- is derived from Indo- 
European -Is- (cf. Lithuanian balsas); but in Skt. vart- vars-, the r 
in the sound-group -rt- and -rs- (both of Indo-European antiquity, 
cf. Lat. verto, Gr. crse)has not disappeared. These and other simi- 
lar examples seem to prove Fortunatov's law; but there are excep- 

339 



THE VEDIC AGE 


tions. Indo-European I dental has clearly developed into -?t- in 
Skt. jartu- which is a side-form of jathara-, and is, like it, connected 
with Goth, kiltheiy and in Skt. karshu, which is connected with 
Greek telson, the I of the Indo-European consonant group -Is- has 
not disappeared as Fortunatov’s law would have it, but has become 
r. De-occludization of some occlusives in the Rigveda shows that 
this characteristic of the Prakrit dialects was latent also in the 
oldest Sanskrit. Thus we find h for dh in the verbal ending -hi for 
-dhi, in hita from dha-, in griha from "^gridha, etc., h for bh in grab-, 
a side-form of grahh-; h for gh in hanti (cf. ghnanti)^ in arh-, a side- 
form of ai'gh-^ in dah- from dhagh-, etc. 

Apart from these significant details which seem to challenge 
the claim of the Rigvedic language to have been a homogeneous one, 
there are others which definitely prove that to some extent it was 
also artificial. Thus it can hardly be an accident that in the Atri- 
Mandala (fifth) there is not a single infinitive form in -tu; the Kan- 
vas, the reputed authors of the first and the eighth Man^alas, seem 
to have intentionally avoided using infinitive forms in -turn and 
-tavai; the Vasishthas, the authors of the seventh Mandala, show a 
similar aversion to absolutives in -tvd and -tvdya. Moreover, perfect 
forms like yamatur (VI. 67 1) and skambhathur (VI. 72. 2), without 
reduplication, must be regarded as purely artificial momentary for- 
mations like the non-reduplicating second person dual perfect tak- 
shathur (X. 39. 4), formed perhaps in imitation of the third person 
plural preterite takshur (11. 19. 8), which in that case must have 
been mistaken for a perfect-form as WackernageP has suggested. 
This also proves in a striking manner that the language of the earlier 
Mandalas was already in danger of being misunderstood when the 
hymns of the tenth Mandala were being composed. 

Intentional imitation of the earlier parts of the Rigveda in the 
later parts is clearly proved in the case of the group of hymns X. 
20-26, the author of which ‘‘has emphasized his dependence on ear- 
lier tradition by prefixing to his own group the opening words of 
the first hymn of the first book.’’^ At any rate, parts of the earlier 
Rigveda must have become part of the ritual tradition at the time 
of the author of the hymn X, 181, for he mentions the fact that the 
Rathantara-saman is chanted to a couplet composed by Vasishtha 
(VIL 32. 22-23) and the Brihat-saman on another composed by Bha- 
radvaja (VI. 46. 1-2). 

On the whole, however, the language of the first nine Mandalas 
must be regarded as homogeneous, in spite of traces of previous 
dialectal differences, particularly in the treatment of r and I, and of 
faint suggestions of particular mannerisms of different composer- 
families. With the tenth Mandala it is a different story. The 
language has here definitely changed. The difference in language 
between the earlier Mai^dalas and the tenth would have appeared 

340 



LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 


in its true proportions if the texts concerned had been written down 
at the time they were composed and handed down to us in that 
written form. 

The fact, however, is that the text-tradition of the Rigveda was 
stabilized at a comparatively late date, and fixed in writing at a 
much later epoch. The result has been not unlike what would 
have happened if the works of Chaucer and Shakespeare were put 
in writing and printed for the first time in the twentieth century: 
in short the text of the Rigveda as handed down to us is, in various 
details, not only different from what it actually was, but to some 
extent also screens the differences that mark off the languages of 
the earlier Mandalas from that of the tenth.®* The evidence of the 
metres, which, infer alia, demand a heavy penultimate in verse-feet 
of ten or eleven syllables but a light one in those of eight or twelve,^ 
clearly proves that the actual pronunciation of the word pdvaka must 
have been pavdka in the Rigvedic age, but the fact has been com- 
pletely suppressed in the traditional text. Similarly, on the evi- 
dence of the metres, the word chhardis seems to have been with- 
out an r in the Rigveda, and very probably the redactors of the 
Rik-samhitd in some passages intentionally altered chhadis into 
chhardis for reasons that cannot now be ascertained.^® 

Apart from these and other sporadical instances of misrepre- 
sentation,^^ the text of the Rigveda has in various -respects under- 
gone a fundamental rehandling that has to no small degree altered 
its original character. In the original text, there was hardly ever 
sandhi between the end of a verse-foot and the beginning of another, 
as is clearly indicated by the evidence of metres, but the final re- 
dactors have systematically joined them in sandhi wherever pos- 
sible,^ though they did not apply their misguided zeal to cases 
of non-sandhi within the verse-foot. The application of abhinihita- 
sandhi (absorption of an initial a- into a final -e or -o) is in this 
regard highly interesting. Whether within a verse-foot or between 
two verse-feet, the ahhinihita-sandhi in almost all its instances has to 
be dissolved in reading. But the fact is that this sandhi is found 
in the written text regularly between two verse-feet (i.e. where 
it should not have taken place at all), but within the verse-foot its 
occurrence is irregular and facultative, seemingly without any prin- 
ciple. Similar, though not quite the same, is the case also with the 
other kinds of vowel-sandhi in the Rigveda, such as kshaipra (i.e. 
the change of a preceding vowel into the corresponding semi-vowel 
before a dissimilar vowel) and Praslishta (i.e. coalition of two similar 
vowels into a long one), for they too have to be dissolved in reading, 
often within the verse-foot and practically always between two 
verse-feet. But semi-vowels which are not the result of kshaipra- 
sandhi have also to be very often dissolved (iyfidipurona). 

341 


V.A.— 82 



THE VEDiC AGE 


The evidence of metre shows, moreover, that not seldom a short 
vowel lias to be inserted in reading between a consonant and an r 
immediately preceding or following it in the same word (thus indra 
has otten to be read indara). This inserted vowel sometimes reveals 
flexional forms which otherwise would never have been discovered. 
Thus apparently the stems in -i, -u, ri take the endings -yoh, voh, 
and -ro(i respectively in genitive and locative dual as in the classical 
language, but readings restored with the help of the metre clearly 
show that the normal ending in the Rigvedic age was dissyllabic in 
each case: the traditional text has adopted these monosyllabic end- 
ings, evidently under the influence of the later language. The 
case of long ri is rather peculiar. As a rule it is found in the written 
text only in those forms which are palpably similar to other forms 
with other long vowels; thus pitrin is written with long ft because 
palpably similar forms such as munim or sddhun show a long vowel. 
Otherwise the short fi in the Rigveda represents also the long 
n. Thus in dridha the short ri stands for long ri that is demanded 
both by grammar and orthoepy. Frank cases of Prdkritism are 
jyotis from dyui-, ushfdndm^^ for ushtrdndm, sithira for srithira, 
sure duhitd (I. 34. 5) for suro duhitd (VII. 69. 4), etc. On the other 
hand, .words like nida (from *ni-zd-a), dulabha (from ‘'‘duz-dabh-a), 
shodasa (from *shash-dasa), etc., could have been formed only at 
a pre-Vedic stage of the language. 

Such a pre-Vedic stage is suggested also by forms of the so- 
called flexion forte of a number of i-stems and u-stems, found only 
in the Rigveda and certainly of Indo-European antiquity. ^ Vowels 
of dissyllabic value are a precious relic of Indo-European antiquity, 
the commonest case being the ending -dm in the genitive plural 
which has often to be read as -adm. The use of a verb-form in the 
singular number when the subject is a plurality of neuter things 
was the normal rule in the original Indo-European of which ample 
evidence is found in other Indo-European dialects, but in the 
Rigveda we have only one sure instance of this usage, namely dhri- 
shnave dhiyate dhand (I. 81. 3). 

The verbal system revealed by the Rigveda is infinitely more 
complex than that of Classical Sanskrit, and yet what we find is a 
drastically simplified form of what it was in the basic Indo-Euro- 
pean language. Thus the original thematic ending -o’ in the first 
person singular has been preserved only in thirteen subjunctive 
forms, jjut in other subjunctive forms of the first person singular 
it was extended by -ni that came to be associated with it already in 
the Indo-Iranian epoch. The active ending in the first person plural 
seems to have been -mes in the original Indo-European on the evi- 
dence of Greek and other languages, but the ancient Iranian dialects 
know only -masi;’'^ in the Rigveda both -masi and -mas occur side 
by side, the former being more than five times as frequent as the 

342 



LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 

latter; in the Atharvaveda -mas becomes commoner than -mast, 
and in the classical language -masi disappears altogether. The 
augment has retained in the Rigveda its original character of an 
independent preverb, and as such is very frequently dispensed with 
when the past sense is clear from the context. The forms thus ob- 
tained are either of the indicative or of the injunctive mood, almost 
equal in number in the Rigveda, the injunctive forms being in about 
one-third of their occurrences governed by the prohibitive particle 
md.^^ In the classical language the augment can be dropped only 
when in construction with this prohibitive particle. The perfect 
is not necessarily a tense of the past as in Classical Sanskrit, but is 
merely suggestive of the fullest amplitude of action. It is pro- 
nouncedly suggestive of past action only when preceded by adverbs 
like purd “formerly,” but it can also be governed by particles like 
nunam “now.” 

On the whole the Rigvedic verb expresses more the modes 
and aspects of action than the time of occurrence, if the augment, 
which was not an integral part of the verb, is left out of considera- 
tion. The subjunctive mood is in full bloom in the Rigveda, but it 
was completely eliminated from the classical language. On the 
other hand, the optative, though not so popular as the subjpnctive 
in the Rigveda, has been retained throughout. The future tense 
which was in origin a desiderative present was in the Rigveda stUl 
in the process of changing its role. It is still in its beginnings, and 
the Rigveda forms a future stem only from fifteen roots. 

The language of the tenth Mandala represents a distinctly later 
stage of the Rigvedic language.’® Hiatus, which is frequent in the 
earlier Rigveda, is already in process of elimination here. Stressed 
i 11 cannot in sandhi be changed into y v in the earlier parts, but in 
the tenth Mandala they can. The ending -dsas in nominative plural 
is half as frequent as -as in the Rigveda taken as a whole, but its 
number of occurrences is disproportionately small in the tenth Man- 
dala. Absolutives in -tvdya occur only here. The stem rai- is 
inflected in one way in the first nine Man^alas, and in another in 
the tenth,’ 9 and in the inflexion of dyau-, too, the distribution of 
strong and weak forms is much more regular in the earlier Mandalas. 
The Prakritic verbal stem kuru- appears only in the tenth Mandala 
for the earlier krinu-. Many words appear for the first time in 
the tenth Mandala or are shared by it only with the interpolated 
parts of other Mandalas. The old locative form pritsu, adjectives 
like girvanas and vicharshav-i, and the substantive inti do not occur 
at all in the tenth Maii^ala, though in the earlier Mandalas they are 
quite common. The particle sdm, which is unknown in the Athar- 
vaveda, occurs fifty times in the first nine Maijidalas but only once 
in the tenth. Words like djya, kola, lohita, vijaya, etc., occur for 
the first time in the tenth Maiji^ala, as also the root labh-. Words 

343 



THE VEDIC AGE 


shared with the tenth Mapd^la only by the interpolated parts of 
other Maajdalas, the Valakhilyas, and unmistakably late hymns are 
loka (for earlier uloka which is a haplology for uruloka), moffha, 
visarga, gup- (a back-formation from gopa), etc. And words which 
occur mostly, though not exclusively, in the tenth Maoid^l^i and these 
parts, are sarva, bhagavant, prdno, hfidaya, etc. The archaic particle 
i of pronominal origin, for which the Padapatha throughout wrongly 
reads im, does not occur at all in the tenth Maipdala, and the particle 
im, which is only less archaic than i, occurs in it only about half a 
dozen times.^'^ Of forms like dakshi, adukshat, etc .,21 which are 
the results of the action of a pre-Vedic phonetic law,22 only one, 
namely dudukshan, occurs in the tenth Maipdala. It is unnecessary 
to dilate any further on the language of the Rigveda. 

2 . LITERATURE 

The Rigvedic literature is not less colourful. The earliest at- 
tempt to classify Vedic hymns systematically according to contents 
is to be found in Yaska’s Nirukta (VII. 1-2). Stating first that the 
stanzas are either indirectly addressed (paroksha), directly addres- 
sed (pratyaksha) , or are self-invocations {adhydtmiki) , Yaska pro- 
ceeds to specify the characteristics and cite instances of the various 
types of hymns. There are, to begin with, hymns in pure praise 
of the deity without any prayer, as, for instance the Indra-hymn 
I. 32, bearing unmistakable characteristics of a popular balladi^*^ 

1. The heroic deeds of Indra shall I proclaim, the deeds 
that the thunder-wielder performed first. 

He slew the dragon, freed the waters, slit the bowels 
of the hills. 

2. He slew the dragon resting on the hill. 

Tvashta had forged for him the shining thunder. 

And the waters springing forth rushed towards the ocean, 
like cows lowing (at the sight of their calves). 

8. Like a broken reed there he lay. 

Over him flowed the waters gladdening hearts; 

Those whom Vyitra held beleaguered by his body — 
at their feet now he lay. 

11. As Dasa-wives stayed the waters guarded by the dragon, 
like the cows restrained by the Papas: ♦ 

the watery pit which was sealed, — that he opened by 
slaying Vyitra, and released the waters. 

15. Indra is the monarch of all that move and rest, 

the thunder-wielder is monarch of tame and homed 

animals; 

He indeed is ruler of all the peoples; 

like a felly round the spokes of a wheel he protects all. 
Mantras of the second type, adcording to Yaska, are those in 

344 



LANGUAGE AND UTERATURE 

which the poet prays for favours without praising the deity. It is 
significant that Yaska cannot cite a single Mantra of this type out 
of the Rigveda, but adds that they are plentiful in the Yajurveda. 
Oaths and imprecations constitute the third type according to Yaska, 
and he cites as instance Rigveda VII. 104. 15: “May I die to-day if 
I am a sorcerer or if I have tried to take a man’s life by sorcery, 
but may he, too, who falsely called me a sorcerer, bewail the death 
of ten grown up sons.” Fourthly, according to Yaska’s classifica- 
tion, there are hymns containing objective descriptions of particular 
states, and, significantly enough, he cites as a specimen the cosmo- 
gonical hymn X. 129: “Then there was neither death nor immor- 
tality, etc.” In the fifth category are included by Yaska the Mantras 
expressive of apprehension, such as X. 95. 14: “'The benevolent god 
may fly forth to-day and never return.”^'*^ Lastly, according to 
Yaska, there are hymns of which the purpose is to administer 
censure or praise, and as an illustration he cites that unique hymn, 
namely X. 117: 

1 . Hunger was certainly not meant as a means of death by the 

gods. For also him who has eaten his fill, death befalls 
in various forms; 

The wealth of the liberal is never exhausted. 

But the stingy person never finds a friend. 

2. He who though possessing food, to the broken and begging 

destitute, approaching him, refuses a morsel. 

And hardens his heart against him even though he had served 

him before, 

he too, likewise, never finds a friend. 

3. He indeed is a patron who gives to the beggar, 

longing for food, wandering and thin. 

Who then readily responds to his call to arms, 
and also thenceforward becomes his friend. 

4. He is no friend who does not give to the friend 

— to the comrade asking for food; 

Let him turn away from him, with him there is no shelter, 
rather seek shelter with a generous stranger. 

5. Let the wealthier person be generous to the applicant; 

let him take a longer view; 

For life rolls on like the wheels of a chariot, 
wealth comes now to one, now to other. 

6. The food earned by the fool is in vain, 

truly say I that it is death to him; 

He feeds no comrade nor a friend; he eats alone and also 
bears the burden of his sins alone. 

7. Only when ploughing does the plough-share produce food; 

only by walking can-!»a distance be covered; 

345 



THE VEDIC AGE 


A BrahmaijjLa who can speak is preferable to one who cannot, 
A liberal friend should be better than an illiberal one. 

The hymn is packed with noble sentiments, and its every word 
is charged with vigour. Yet it should not be forgotten that the 
hectoring eloquence of this energetic priest was probably directed 
mainly to the purpose of frightening the wealthy into ceding a part 
of their wealth to the Brahma^ias especially, and not to the poor of 
every class, for of genuine sympathy for the poor there is not much 
in the Rigveda. 

Yaska’s brief and purely formal classification of the contents of 
the Mantra-texts is, however, anything but satisfactory. It is true 
that the main body of the hymns contains praises or prayers or both. 
But from the literary point of view they should best be regarded as 
lyrical poems adapted to the purpose of ritual. Of these the hymns 
addressed to Heaven’s daughter Aurora (Ushas) are perhaps the 
oldest and certainly the most beautiful. They have something of 
the lyric beauty and love of nature of Shelley and Wordsworth, 
and one cannot help feeling that they were inspired by the sight of the 
sunrise over the snowclad peaks of the Himalayas. A few stanzas 
of the first hymn to Ushas (I- 48) will suffice to reveal the spirit of 
simple^ adoration in which the goddess was invoked by the Rishis: 

1. Light us up with happiness, O Ushas, daughter of heaven, 

with great lustre, O radiant one, with wealth, O bountiful 

goddess. 

5. Like a fair maiden comes Ushas, gladdening (all), 

she comes awakening four-footed beasts, and makes the birds 

rise into the air. 

9. O Ushas, shine with shimmering radiance, O daughter of 
heaven, bringing us ample happiness, as you shew your light 

upon the daily sacrifice. 

10. The breath and life of the whole world is in you, 

O noble one, as you shine forth; 
as such, O resplendent one with towering chariot, 
give ear to our cry, O bestower of various gifts. 

11. O Ushas, win then (for us) the prize that is admired among 

human folk. 

With that, hasten to the sacrifices of your worshippers, 
the sacrificers who are chanting your nraisei^. 

14. Whoever were the Rishis of old that invoked you 
for protection and support, O noble one, 

Yet accept our hymns and bestow on us a rift in token 
of your satisfaction, O Ushas, with brilliant lustre. 

Here it is simplicity and not greed that is begging of the goddess 
gifts and more gifts. But it cannot escape even the most superficial 
reader that in hvmns such as this the means that the poets have in 
view for attaining their object is sind^ly to please the deity by flatter- 

346 



LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 

ing songs and ritual sacrifices. There is no suggestion as yet of a 
belief in the existence of a supreme justice from which flow all 
punishment and reward. In the hymns to Varuna, however, this 
sentiment is already in the horizon. The hymn to this pod by 
Kurma Gartsamada (II. 28), for example, opens in the usual flatter- 
ing tone: 

1 . May this (hymn) addressed to Aditi’s son who is wise and 

self-suprem.e excel all the existing (hymns) in greatness; 
The god whom it is exceedingly pleasant to worship, — 
of that affluent Varuna do I beg glorious fame. 

But the tone soon changes, and adulation turns into admiration for 
god-created cosmic harmony: 

4. Aditi’s son unleashed them (i.e. the rivers) and 

started them on various paths, 
the rivers course along in obedience to Varuna’s ordinance; 
Never released are they, nor ever tired, 
like birds they swiftly fly in never-ending course 

(lit. round the earth). 

5. Loosen the bond of sin like a girdle, O Varuna; 

We shall fully conform to the rule of equity you have 
ordained. ' 

May not the thread snap while I am still weaving my prayer- 
song, 

may not the measuring-rod break out of season. 

6. Avert terror from me, O Varuna, 

be kind to me, as a righteous ruler. 

Release me from anguish, as a calf from the rope; 
not even for a moment can I live away from you. 

7. Do not strike us, Varuna, with the weapons which, in your 
search, 

O Asura, destroy those who commit sin. 

May we not have to bid adieu to light; 

loosen the hold of the envious on us, so that we may live- 
That virtue is its own reward, and, as a spiritual quality, is incom- 
mensurable in terms of material advantage, does not seem to have 
been realized by the Rigvedic poets. The spirit of the people that 
peeps through the thick veil of ritual pedantry is one of gladness, 
aspiring ever for more, never knowing rest or contentment. Absence 
of evil is not what they pray for most. Their supreme desire is to 
triumph over poverty and resistance. Their chief god is Indra who 
does not possess a single spiritual trait. But their minds are fresh, 
and, therefore, deeply impressed by the violence of natural pheno- 
mena. Atri’s hymn (V. 83) to Parjanya (the storm-god) is perhaps 
the most striking example: 


147 



THE VEDIC AGE 


2 . He strikes down the trees, he strikes also the Rakshasas, 

the whole world is afraid of (Parjanya) carrying mighty 

arms. 

Even the sinless quake before the bull-like god, 

when Parjanya, thundering, strikes the evil-doers. 

3. Like the charioteer lashing forward his horses by the whip 

does he announce the messengers of rain, 

Lion’s roars from a distance are heard. 

When Parjanya renders rainy the sky. 

4. Winds blow fast and lightnings flash, 

plants shoot up and heaven swells; 

Quickening showers fall for all 

when Parjanya gladdens the earth with his seed. 

7. Roar and thunder, sow the seed, 

come flying hither in squelching car; 

Turn downward the skin unbound, 

so that be levelled high lands and low. 

Hymns of this type are unique in world literature, for nowhere 
else can the deification of natural phenomena be so clearly perceived. 

Martial spirit is well reflected in hymn VI. 75, though, evidently, 
it is not a real war-song, but rather a magical incantation supposed 
to secVire victory in battle: 

1 . Like a thunder-cloud becomes his face, 

when the mailed warrior plunges into the thick of battle. 
Be victorious without being injured in body, 
may the strength of the armour protect you. 

2 . By the bow we’ll win the cattle, by the bow the battle, 

by the bow shall we win the mighty struggles. 

The bow destroys the enemy, 

by the bow shall we conquer the regions. 

3. As if to whisper the string nears the ear, 

holding in embrace its dear friend (the bow); 

Stretched on the bow it lisps like a girl, 
this string, that helps on to victory. 

The din of battle is always in the background of the Rigvedic 
stage, but the poets, being for the most part priests, failed to give 
anything like a true picture of it. Yet, sometimes, the priests them- 
selves were present on the battle-field. The Bharata-army suc- 
ceeded in crossing the rivers Vipa| and Sutudri only when Vilva- 
mitra by his eloquence persuaded them to lower their level. The 
colloquy between the priest and the rivers (III. 33) is quite interest- 
ing. Says Viivamitra: 

3. To the most motherly stream have I come, 

the broad and propitious Vipa^ have we reached; 

One the other licks like the mother-cow her calf, 
as in the same bed they follow their course, 

-M8 



LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 

Not to be taken in so easily, the rivers ask suspiciously: 

4. Swollen thus with a flood of milk 

do we flow along the god-created bed; 

Our course, once in flow, can not be stopped: 
with what object does the sage invoke us? 

And Visvamitra comes pat with his request: 

5. Stop in your course a moment, O true ones, 

listen to my Soma-sweet speech; 

An ardent prayer to you I address; 

seeking help Kusika’s son invokes you. 

The rivers at last agree and express their consent with the words: 

10. We shall do as you say, O poet, 

since in cart and chariot you have come from afar; 

To you shall I stoop as the mother swelling (with milk to her 

child), 

like a maid her lover shall I obey you. 

The most famous and interesting of the dialogue-hymns contained 
in the Rigveda is the one (X. 95) in which the mortal Pururavas 
tries but fails to persuade the nymph Urvasi to continue to live 
with him. The lure of paradise is too much for the fickle female. 
She leaves her mortal lover, and her last words (verse 15) are cruel 
and cynical, though not unsympathetic: 

Pururavas, do not die, do not perish (?) 

Let not the cruel wolves devour you; 

The friendship of woman is never indeed firm, 
for they are hyenas in heart. 

These dialogue-hymns may be regarded as dramas in embryo 
(not necessarily for the stage). In most cases they are obscure. 
But there is nothing to justify the theory that the verses were 
once connected by prose narrative now lost. The dialogue-hymns, 
though in most cases clearly of secular origin, must have been utiliz- 
ed in some sort of ritual drama, for otherwise it is difficult to explain 
their inclusion in the Sarhhita. 

Though Rigvedic poetry is predominantly lyrical, the Samhita 
contains not a single hymn that may be called a love-poem. In the 
Atharimveda, too, we have only love-charms. This is difficult to 
explain, specially when so many different types of hymns of non- 
religious origin are included in the Rigveda. One of them is the 
well-known and oft-quoted satirical frog-hymn (VII. 103): 

1. Hibernating throughout the year 

like Brahmins observing a vow, 

Animated by the divine Par j any a 

the frogs are now croaking loudly, 

2. When heavenly showers fall on them, 

lying, in a pond like shrivelled skins, 

34Q 



THE VEDIC AGE 


Like the lowing of cows for their calves, 
sound the voices of frogs in unison. 

3. When showers fall on longing creatures 

and slake their thirst at the start of the rainy season, 
With rapture in the voice, like the son his father, 
they greet each other without cessation. 

5 . One repeats the word of another,' 

like students echoing the voice of the teacher; 

Together they form a chorus, 

when at rain-fall loudly they croak. 

Another remarkable hymn of non-religious origin is the merry song 
by Sisu Ahgirasa (IX. 112) with the refrain “flow O Soma for Indra’s 
sake’\ 

1. Diverse indeed are our aims, 

different are the tasks of men, 

The builder seeks for cracks, leeches for the sick, 
and priests are greedy for sacrifices. 

2. With seasoned timber of ancient trees 

and the feathers of birds, 

The goldsmith seeks those who possess gold, 
ready with his furnaces and precious gems. 

3. A bard I am, my father a leech, 

and my mother is a grinder of corn; 

Diverse in means, but all wishing wealth, 
equally we strive for cattle. 

The fourth and concluding verse is coarse in expression, fore- 
shadowing verses of the same brand in the Atharvaveda. This hymn 
is of particular importance also for the light which it throws upon 
the caste-system in the Rigvedic age, for it shows clearly that pro- 
fessions were not yet determined by birth. But there was already 
a fully developed class-system dating from the Indo-Iranian epoch, 
as is unavoidable in every society that has outgrown the savage 
state; and inevitably the professions in the Rigvedic class-system 
already showed a distinct tendency to become hereditary. 

Dasa princes like Sambara, Dhuni, Chumuri, Pipru, and Varchin 
have been actually mentioned by the Rigvedic poets, but it is signi- 
ficant that, as a rule, Indra himself has been made to combat them 
on his own initiative and not in course of rendering merely routine 
assistance to Aryan chiefs.^® For it shows that even in the heyday 
of Rigvedic culture there was no longer a living memory of the first 
encounters with the aboriginal races.^^ At the time of the Battle 
of the Ten Kings (ddsardjna) y however, which is the central event 
of the history of the period (ante, p. 250) when the Aryan tribes 
began to feel themselves secure enough to indulge in the luxury of 
fighting each other, Indra is invoked only to render aid, but not to 
lead the onslaught. This significant difference in the treatment of 

350 



LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 


previous and contemporary events would seem to suggest that the 
priestly poets of the Rigvedic age were not without a semblance of 
historical sense. 

On the other hand, the hymns, which in the absence of anything 
better are taken to be historical poems, namely the Ddnastutis 
(psalms in praise of munificence), are generally made-to-order pe- 
destrian compositions without any historical data of real value. 
Generally they are sets of three to five verses appended to a hymn 
of the usual type. Only one hymn (I: 126) is entirely a Ddnastiiti, 
and that one is perhaps the worst in the Rigveda: 

1 . No bad hymns am I offering by exerting my intellect 
In praise of Bhavya ruling on the Indus, . 

Who assigned to me a thousand sacrifices, 

The incomparable king desirous of fame. 

2. A hundred gold pieces from the fame-seeking king 
Together with a hundred horses as a present have I received, 
I, Kakshivant, obtained also a hundred cows from my master. 
Who exalted thereby his fame immortal up to heaven. 

3. Dark horses given by Svanaya, and 

Ten chariots carrying slave-girls fell to my share; 

Followed a herd of sixty thousand cows, 

All this as sacrificial fee did Kakshivant receive at the end 

of the session. 

4. Forty ruddy horses of the set of ten chariots 
Are heading the column of a thousand cows; 

Fiery steeds decorated with pearls 

Have the Kakshivants and Pajras received. 

5. After the first gift, I received 

Three chariots and eight cows capable of nourishing even a 
rich patron 

For you, my good relations, who, as clan-fellows, 

Driving in chariots, hankered for fame.^® 

This dismal hymn ends with two more verses notable only for their 
extreme obscenity. It is in these Ddnastutis that Brahmanical 
greed appears in its worst aspect in the Rigveda. 

Scarcely less debased than the Ddnastutis are the Aprl-hymns,^^ 
manufactured artificially for employment in animal-sacrifice. Every 
priestly family has its own Apri-hymn, and all of them (ten alto- 
gether) are constructed in the same pattern. Eleven different 
deities and deity-groups in as many different verses have been in- 
voked in each Apri-hymn in the same order. Only in regard to the 
second deity there is evident uncertainty, for in four AprI-hymns it 
is Tanunapat, in four other Narasamsa, and in the first two Apri- 
hymns we find as second deity both Tanunapat and Narasamsa, each 
with a verse for himself. Moreover at the end of the second Apri- 

351 



THE VEDIC AGE 


hymn, there is a special verse invoking Indra. Thus the first Apri- 
hymn consists of twelve, the second of thirteen and each of the rest 
of eleven verses. The Apri-hymns, though of no literary value, are 
of immense importance for the history of Vedic religion. They 
prove conclusively that also in the oldest period, as at later epochs, 
ritual had never been fully standardized. There is no reason to * 
doubt that these hymns were actuall;^ used at animal-sacrifices as 
tradition maintains. But there is nothing in the Apri-hymns to 
suggest that in the Rigvedic period the animals sacrificed were re- 
garded as substitutes for the sacrificers themselves as was the case in 
later ritual.^®* 

The funeral hymns too seem to have been composed specially 
for ritual purposes, but they contain truly noble sentiments. As 
cremation and burial were both in vogue, we have both burial and 
cremation hymns- But the character of the respective hymns leaves 
scarcely any doubt that burial was the earlier custom. It is signi- 
ficant that the deceased, if a man, still holds a bow in his hand, 
which the priest takes away from him at the time of burial with the 
words (X. 18. 9); 

The bow I take from the hand of the deceased 
for our power and glory and strength: 
x Even there where you lie may we as good heroes 
repulse all the attacks of the foes. 

The martial spirit of the Vedic Aryans finds truest expression in 
this verse. Even at the moment of death the thought supreme in 
their minds is that of war. Twice in the Rigveda man has been 
called mrityuhandhu “regarding death as a relation.” The Rigvedic 
Indians were passionately fond of life, but they were not afraid of 
death. A gentler but more sophisticated spirit is revealed by the 
cremation-hymn X. 16: 

1 . Do not burn him, Agni, do not scorch him either, 

do not tear asunder his skin or body; 

When you have devoured him, O Jatavedas, 
then do you send him on to the Fathers. 

2. When you have devoured him, O Jatavedas, 

then do you give him over to the Fathers; 

When he reaches the other world of the dead, 
then may he obey the will of the gods. 

3 . Let the eye go to the sun, let. the breath go to the wind; 

to heaven or to earth according to their desert; 

Or to waters go, if that is your lot, 

or set you up in the plants with your limbs. 

The last verse is of special interest for various reasons. Pantheism 
of a primitive variety is discernible in the first line. The second 
line suggests the idea of retribution though as yet far short of the 
philosophical doctrine of Karma. Belief in a life after death is also 

152 



LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE 


revealed in this verse, but there is no suggestion as yet of belief in 
hell or rebirth. The first occurs only in the Atharvaveda^ and the 
second clearly appears for the first time in the Upanishads. 

Quite a number of philosophical hymns are contained in the 
^igveda, and they have been often discussed and translated.^^ An 
important point to note in this connection is, however, that the terms 
mdyd and rupa — on which hinges the whole of later Ved^ta philo- 
sophy — have been used already in the Rigveda precisely in their 
Vedanta sense.^^ “Rupa” in the Rigveda never signifies real form, 
but only the transient and deceptive appearance; and in 

most passages has been used to signify only that occult power by 
means of which the deceptive appearance can be assumed or dis- 
carded.^^ If the doctrine of mdyd and rupa is the essence of Ve- 
danta (end of Veda), then it may as well be called Vedadi (begin- 
ning of Veda). 

Nowhere in ancient literature have the gods been more con- 
cretely conceived as in the Rigveda, but the same Rigveda also re- 
veals the fact that already there were some who would believe in the 
existence even of Indra, the most concrete of the Vedic pantheon. 
Quite in the strain of “O God, if there be a God,” a poet in the Rig- 
veda makes this astonishing remark (VIII. 100. 3) : 

Chant the hymn, striving for strength, 

unto Indra the truthful, if indeed he exists. 

One says to other, “Indra does not exist, 

who has him seen? whom shall I praise?” 

But in the next verse is heard already the voice of Krishna in 
the Bhagavadglid, For Indra replies: 

Here am I, look at Me, O singer, 
all beings I excel in greatness; 

Behests of the cosmic order magnify Me, 

for I rend the worlds when I am bent on rending them. 

The Rigvedic conception of concrete gods will be dealt with more 
fully in Chapter XVIII, 

1. As, for example, the rise of the cerebral series and the levelling of short diph- 
thongs. 

2. Gilbert Murray says of the Iliad: “We often find, too, that descriptive phrases 
are not used so accurately to fit the thing described. They are caught up 
ready made from a store of such things: perpetual epithets, front halves of 
lines, back halves of lines, whole lines, if ne^ be, and long formulae. The 
stores of the poets were full and brimming. A bard n^d only put in his hand 
and choose out a well-sounding phrase. Even the similes are ready-made.** 
(The Rise of the Greek Epic, second ed., p. 258). All this may be maintained, 
mutatis mutandis, also of Rigvedic poetry. 

3. In the days of Panini, whom I place in the fifth century B.C., Sanskrit was still 
a living language of some sort. But in the days of the grammarian Patanjali 
it must have become more or less like Latin in mediaeval Italy. In any case, 
Sanskrit had ceased to be a living language long before the days of Asoka. 
Cf. Keith, HSL, pp. 8-17. 

4. See Wackernagel, Altindische Grammatik, I, § 191c. 

5. I take this to be the meaning of the weU- known passage; te'surd helaya helaya 
iti pardhahhuvuh. 

6. Cf. Wackernagel, op. cit., I § 192c and § 193a. 

353 



THE VEDIC AGE 


7. Ibid.y p. XV. See however Macdonell.^ Vedic Grammary § 482e. 

8. CHIy I, p. 77. 

8a. Thus in sandhi the final -ii has been throughout reduplicated after a short 
vowel when the following word begins with a vowel. But in the older parts 
the reduplication fits in with the metre only in those cases in which the final 
-n had been originally followed by a consonant. (See my Linguistic Introduce 
lion to Sanskrity p. 57.) 

9. See Rikpmtisdkhya, XVII. 39. 

10. If chhardis is etymologically connected with Engl, shield, as it is supposed to 
be, then of course the r-form must be regarded as original. But this etymology 
is anything but certain. 

11. It must be clearly understood that the written text, everywhere and in every 
case, truly represents the text as it was when it was finally fi^ed. It is mis- 
leading only in the sense that it does not everywhere give the text in its 
original form. See Oldenberg, Prolegomena, p. 372, fn. 2. 

11a. For the few instances of non-sandhi between Padanta and Padadi in the 
written text though sandhi was possible, see Rikprdtisdkhya, II. 60 ff. 

12. See Wackernagel, op. cit., HI, § 22b. 

13. The form in whibh the word has been handed down is ushpdndm. Non-cere- 
bralization of n however shows that in actual pronunciation it was ushtdndm. 

14. See my Linguistic Introduction to Sanskrit, pp. 131-2. 

15. See Macdonell, Vedic Grammar, p. 314, fn. 2. 

16. See Thumb, Handhuch des Sanskrit, § 425 Anm. 

17. Macdonell, ibid., § 413b. 

18. On this point see particularly Oldenberg, Prolegomena, pp. 268-70. 

19. See Wackernagel, op. cit.. Ill, p. 214. 

20. Ibid., p. 519. 

21. Collected in Rikprdtisdkhya, IV. 98. These archaic forms, too, have been 
throughout misrepresented in the Padapatha. 

22. See my Linguistic Introduction to Sanskrit, p. 45. 

23. Without trying to be literal, I have tried in these translations to convey the 
sen^e of the original as accurately as possible. 

24. So this much-discussed, but still obscure, verse has been translated by Laksh- 
man Sarup, The Nighantu and The Nirukta, English trans., p. 114. 

25. Suggested by Oldenberg ZDMG, XXXIX, pp. 52 ff. 

26. At least one Dasa chief, however, namely Balbutha, had adopted Aryan culture 
and even patronized Brahmana singers (see Rigveda, VIII. 46. 32). 

%7. This is a fresh argument in favour of dating the first Aryan invasion of India 
earlier and not later than the middle of the second millennium B.C. 

28. The fifth stanza is obscure; only a literal translation has been attempted. 

29. A brief account of the Apri-hymns has been given by Max Muller, HASL, 
second edition, revised, pp. 463-7. 

29a. In later Vedic ritual, the animal sacrificed is throughout regarded as a sur- 
rogate victim which the initiated person has to immolate in order to obtain 
release from his vow. 

30. See Winternitz, HIL, I, pp. 97 ff. 

31. It is curious that this fact has not yet been properly emphasized by any modem 
investigator. 

32. Also in the Avesta the word mdyd has a similar meaning, but the point has 
yet to be properly investigated. 


354 



CHAPTER XVII 

POLITICAL AND LEGAL INSTITUTIONS 

I. POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS 


As a general rule, monarchy was the system of government 
prevailing in this age. The term Rdjan, king or chiettain, is of 
frequent occurrence in the Rigveda. The country which the Vedic 
Aryans occupied was split up into numerous tribal principalities. 
One passage of the Rigveda (1. 126. 1) speaks of a king living on the 
bank of the Sindhu, and another (VIII. 21. 18) refers to a king Chitra 
and other nobles as residing in the neighbourhood of the river 
Sarasvati. Ten kings are described as having fought in the historic 
battle against Sudas {ante, p. 250). In the Ddnastutis and elsewhere, 
a very large number of rajas are also mentioned. These passages 
leave no doubt that the form of government was normally monar- 
chical, the tribe as a political unit being under a single ruler. This, 
of course, is to be expected from the patriarchal organization of 
Aryan society and -from the state of constant warfare with their 
neighbours (aboriginal and not rarely Aryan), which was a normal 
feature of the life of the Vedic Aryans. 

^ut in the Rigveda we come across terms which in later times 
were undoubtedly applied to non-monarchical constitutions. Thu| 
we have references to the gana with the ganapati or jyeshtha 
(elder) at its head. The last probably corresponds to the jefthaka 
of the Pali texts, and it is not impossible that there were even in 
this early period, the germs of the republican states of the type we 
meet with in early Buddhist times' Vcf. vol. II, ch. I). 

The passages cited above also sltow that, generally speaking,/ the 
kingdoms were small in extent and were units of a single tribe.: 
Whether the confederacy of the Five Tribes who attacked Sudas 
actually involved a system of political organization or some sort of 
political collaboration cannot be definitely determined. But it is 
not altogether unlikely. One passage in Rigveda (VIII. 5. 38) speaks 
of king Kasu making a gift of ten kings to a Rishi (sage) and other 
passages (II. 41. 5; V. 62. 6) represent Mitra and Varuna as occupy- 
ing a spacious palace with a thousand pillars and a thousand gates. 
Even allowing for poetic exaggeration, the description postulates 
the existence of a royal palace of imposing proportions, and neces- 
sarily presupposes a fairly large kingdom that could boast of a 
capital capable of accommodating a palace of such dimensions. We 
have again to admit that the size of some kingdoms at least was 
large enough to enable the rulers to command that affluence which 
is so often described in the Ddnastutis.^ The presents conferred 

355 



THE VEDIC AGE 


by the kings on their priests were gorgeous, ample, and varied. They 
consisted of cows numbering thousands at times, of horses, chariots, 
blocks of gold, dresses and beautifully attired female slaves. Hence 
the wealth possessed at least by some of these rulers was conside- 
rable. 

Further, it is interesting to note that we meet with the ex- 
pression Samrac, which meant an “emperor” in later days, and 
also the idea of a universal monarch {visvasya bhuvanasya rdjd).^ 

In any case, the king occupied a position of high dignity and 
supremacy which was emphasized by a formal consecration and 
laudatory hymns. He wore a gorgeous robe, and his palace, what- 
ever its dimensions, undoubtedly surpassed in grandeur the com- 
mon dwellings of the people. (On the whole the ^igveda leaves po 
doubt that the king was no longer merely a leader of a primitive 
tribe, but occupied a position of pre-eminence which was deliberate- 
ly distinguished in all possible ways from the rest of the people.) 

The lines of kingly succession that we can trace in the RV raise 
the presumption of hereditary kingship as the normal system, but 
there is clear evidence that when the situation demanded it, visah 
(settlements) who constituted the rdshfra (national unit) could select 
a worthy monarch of their own choice from among the members of 
the royal family or of the nobility (the rdjanyas). Geldner'*^ holds 
that passages like X. 124.® that are generally cited to establish the 
selection of a king by the settlements merely indicate their formal 
sanction of a fait accompli. But the very fact of this formal sanc- 
tion presupposes that the right of selection was exercised by the 
subjects some time earlier. 

Two assemblies called sdbhd and samiti formed an essential 
feature of the government. The term sahhd is often mentioned in the 
Rigveda (VI. 28. 6; VIII. 4. 9, etc.), and denotes “the people in 
conclave” and the “hall” which was the venue of them meeting.- Since, 
however, the sdbhd was used for the game of dice (X. 34. 6), it is clear 
that even non-political business could be transacted at the hall or 
by the people wKo constituted the sabhd. That it was a gathering 
of the elect, i.e. of Brahmanas and the rich patrons, when it was 
convened for administrative purposes, is clear from the term 
Sabheya, “worthy of the assembly,” as applied to a Brahmapa 
(II. 24. 13). The samiti in the sense of an “Assembly” of the Ve- 
dic tribe is mentioned in the Rigveda (I. 98. 8; IX. 92. 6, etc.). 
According to Ludwig,® the samiti was a more comprehensive confe- 
rence including not only all the common people (tJtsdK) htlt "alsiriE^h- 
maijas and rich patrons, .(maghauan). Although if^iS rliflSctilt to 
distinguish between a sdbKa' and a samiti, we can provisionally 
arrive at some tentative conclusions. It appears that the samiti 
was an august assembly of a larger group of the people for the 
discharge of tribal (i.e. political) business and wss presided over 

356 



POUTICAL AND LEGAL INSTITUTIONS 

by the king. The sahhd, a more select body, was less popular and 
political in character than the samiti. Although the functions 
and powers of sabhd and samiti cannot be exactly defined, numer- 
ous passages referring to them clearly indicate that both these 
Assemblies exercised considerable authority and must have acted 
as healthy checks on the power of the king. Great importance 
was attached, not only to concord between the king and the 
Assembly, but also to a spirit of harmony among the members of 
the Assembly. The last hymn of the Rigveda invokes such unity 
in solemn and beautiful language: 

“Assemble, speak together; let your minds be all of one accord’' 

s;: ^ 

“The place is common, common the assembly, common the 
mind, so be their thoughts united.” 

5:1 j;: 

“One and the same b§ your resolve, and be your minds of one 
accord 

“United be the thoughts of all that may happily agree.” 

The royal authority was also materially curbed by the power 
and prestige of the Purohita, who accompanied the king to battle 
(p. 348) and helped him with prayers and spells, and the influence 
of the priesthood generally, to which the Ddnastutis bear indirect 
testimony. The cases of Vasishtha and Visvamitra are noteworthy 
in this connection. Special reference may also be made to the 
following verses {RV, IV. 50. 7-9): 

(7) That king, indeed, overpowers all opposing forces with 
his valour and might who maintains Brihaspati (the Brahmajgia 
priest) well attended, and praises and honours him as (a deity) 
deserving the first share (of the homage due); 

(8) He (tb||g|j|jag) verily abides, well established in his own 
place; to hinl^'the holy food flows for ever; to him the visah bow 
down of their own accord, the king with whom the Brahmana 
takes precedence. 

(9) Irresistible, he wins the riches of his enemies and his kins- 
men; the king who affords protection to the Brahmana desiring 
help — him the gods help. 

There is hardly any material difference between the power of 
the Brahmana (Brihaspati) over the king as described in this passage 
and the power of the Purohita over a king, which is associated in 
our minds with the later stages of political history when the caste 
system was fully developed. 

(The immigrant Aryans had necessarily to carry on bitter and 
prolonged fights with the indigenous people called the Ddsas or 
Dusyus, But there was no attempt at the extermination of the 
conquered loes. The process of amalgamation of the invaders 
with the conquered aborigines took the form of intermarriage and 

357 

V.A.— 28 



TPIE VEDIC AGE 


the absorption of the latter into the fourth (and occasionally into 
tne tnua; varna or social class. The translation of the word ddsa 
by “Slave'’ has led to the misconception that the conquered abori- 
gines, Doth male and female, “were enslaved.”*^ Ddsa does mean a 
“lue-iong servant,” but the horrors associated with the term 
“slavery” are not to be thought of in this connection. Similarly 
the so-called female slaves (oasis), captured or received as gifts by 
kings, were lile-long servants assigned generally to the harems of 
kings in later times. There is, however, no recorded instances in 
the RV ov later literature of the harsh or cruel treatment of a ddsa 
or ddsi, which is generally associated with slavery. 

The protectiop of the people was the sacred duty of the king. 
In return he expected and received loyal obedience front, his sub- 
jects. The word bali occurs several times in the RV in the sense 
of a tribute or offering to a god (I. 70. 9; V. 1. 10, etc.). In the 
sense of a tribute to the king it is met with in the compound boli- 
hrit, “paying tribute” (VII. 6. 5; X. 173. 6). The tributes were 
probably received in kind from the subjects. Whether these were 
voluntary or involuntary, and thus amounted to a kind of indirect 
taxation, is a debatable point. The truth seems to be that the 
tribesn^en who were led to victory and safety by their ruler volun- 
tarily showered presents on their leader; and that these became 
more or less regular and periodical in times of peace and to that 
extent less voluntary. There seems to be little doubt, however, 
that the hostile tribes defeated in battle were forced to pay some 
kind of ball or tribute to the victor. There thus seems to be in 
existence taxation, both of the voluntary and involuntary type, in 
the days of the Rigveda. If in a simile in RV, I. 65. 4 the king is 
described as “devouring the people,” it is not to be understood in 
the sense of “oppression of the people” but rather his “living on 
them.” The king was not the owner of the land, i Even when the 
Danastutis speak of generous gifts by the kings to the priests, they 
are normally articles of personal property rather than land. 

The king was pre-eminently the war-lord and RV gives us 
some idea of the mode of warfare. The king and his nobles (the 
rdjanya or Kshatriya class) fought from chariots, and the common 
people on foot. The knowledge of battle arrays of different types 
may be inferred from the use of certain terms such as sardha, vrdta, 
gccna, etc. which probably denoted- different military units. As in 
later days, we hear of martial music and banners in connection 
with battle. The principal weapon was the bow and arrow. The 
arrows were tipped with points of metal or poison^ horn. Other 
weapons were lances, spears, axes, swords, and sling-stones. The 
use of (leather?) guards to save the hands and arms from the fric- 
tion of the bow-string, as also a coat-of-mail and helmet, characte- 
rized the equipment of a warrior. Horse-riding .was known. It 

358 



POUTICAL AND LEGAL INSTITUTIONS 

is difficult to agree with the scholars who hold that no mention is 
made of the use of cavalry in war. As to the actual mode of war- 
fare, all we can infer from passages like RV, II. 12. 8 is that a body 
of foot-soldiers marched along with the charioteers, the two to- 
gether constituting the army. If Sayana’s interpretation of X. 
142. 4 is accepted, then besides ordinary wars of defence and con- 
quest, raids into neighbouring territory were frequent and normal 
for winning booty which the king shared with the people. Ram- 
parts or forts (pur), which were either of stone or metal {dyasl 
pur), and sometimes consisted of an enclosure protected by a pali- 
sade consisting only of a hedge of thorn or a row of stakes, were 
used as places of refuge against attack in times of war. The me- 
thod of laying siege in RV days was probably by setting fire to the 
surrounding palisades or wails (VII. 5. 3). But mention is also 
made of pur charishnu (lit. moving fort) which may be a sort of 
engine for assaulting strongholds. Reference has been made 
above pp. 348) to hymns breathing a martial spirit. 

2. ADMINISTRATIVE ORGANIZATION 

The “Five Peoples” {pancha jandli) was perhaps a comprehen- 
sive term for the Vedic Aryans (ante, p. 251). These five peoples 
were split up into numerous tribes, the tribe being the political unit 
(as mentioned above). The Vis (a term the various senses'' of which 
have puzzled many scholars) played a vital part in the political 
organization. 

In a political sense, the members of a tribal unit were the visah 
constituting the rdshtra (or tribal kingdom). Below the vis came 
the grama or village, which was the basic administrative unit. Re- 
ference is also sometimes made to jana, another unit whose precise 
nature is not known.^ The administrative organization was essen- 
tially rural in conception. The grama was practically self-contain- 
ed, and had for purposes of defence a fortified enclosure (pur) on 
an eminence. These enclosures, as mentioned above, were made 
of stone (sometimes probably .also of iron) and had many walls. 
Towns with wooden walls or palisades and ditches all round were 
undoubtedly known, but played practically no part in the econo- 
mic life of the people. They figured only in the defensive warfare 
of the Ve^ic Aryans and were occupied (it seems) during emer- 
gencies by the warrior-class. 

The grama was probably made up of little knots of houses of 
the several branches of one family (Kula). The part played by 
the Kula in tite administrative organization is perhaps indicated 
by the description (X. 179. 2-3) of a Kulapd (guardian of the family), 
forming the entourage of a vrdjapati (probably the same as the 
grdmava) and fighting under his banner. The grdman^ exercised, 
it seems, both civil and military functions. The Sendnt, whose 

359 



THE VEDIC AGE 


military authority in times of war is undeniable, probably dis- 
charged civil functions in times of peace, ranking higher than the 
grdmavi. In the description of the Ddsardjna fight (VII. 18. 11) 
Sudas is said to have overthrown “the twenty-one tribes (jandn) 
of the kings or folk of the two Vaikar^ias.” It is probable that they 
were a joint people, the Kuru-Krivis. It is doubtful, however, 
whether this aggregate of twenty-one janas represented a political 
and administrative organization higher than a jana. 

Of the various functionaries of the king, the most important 
appear to be the Purdhita and the Sendnl referred to above. The 
king probably appointed a large number of priests to perform the 
sacrifices and other sacred rites. There are also references to spies 
{spasa) who were ‘apparently engaged by him, as in later days, to 
secure information about the kingdom and the people. We also 
hear of dutas or messengers who were undoubtedly the principal 
means of communication between the different states. The king 
had no doubt other officers, but we have no detailed knowledge of 
them. 

3. LAW AND LEGAL INSTITUTIONS 

The regular word for law or custom in the RV (I. 22. 18; 164. 
43, 50; .III. 3. 1; 17. 1; 60. 6; V. 26. 6; 63. 7; 72. 2, etc.) is Dharman, 
but there are very few data as regards the administration of justice 
or the code of law followed. We can only infer from later practice 
that the king administered justice with the assistance of legal ad- 
visers including the Purohita. 

Theft, burglary, highway robbery, and cheating (chiefly at 
gambling) are among the crimes recorded, cattle-lifting at night 
being a very frequent one. Marriage of brother and sister was 
looked upon as incest. Tying the criminal to a stake was a com- 
mon form of punishment. The epithet sataddya, i.e. “one, the 
price of whose blood was one hundred (coins)” shows that the 
system of wfirgeld (Vairadeya) or blood-money was probably in 
force. Whereas death was one of,, the punishments for theft in 
later times, it was not so in the Rigvedic age. The aim seems ra- 
ther to have been the satisfaction of the person wronged. 

Geldners suggests that a heated paraiu (axe) used as an ordeal 
is referred to in RV, III. 53. 22, and Ludwig^ o thinks ^hat RV, I. 
158. 4 ff., refer to Dirghatamas having been subjected to the fire 
and water ordeals. These are quite plausible suggestions, though 
no definite conclusions are possible. 

RiTio (debt) is frequently mentioned in the RV though in a 
metaphorical sense in the majority of passages where it occurs. 
Indebtedness seems to be a fairly well-known condition. There was 
a special term nnam sam-nl for paying off a debt. The loan (pi^a) 
thus was the only contract known and that, chiefly, at gambling. A 

360 



POUTICAL AND LEGAL INSTITUTIONS 


debtor was punished with a period of servitude to the creditor and 
was bound by the creditor to a post {dru-pada) to bring pressure 
on him for payment. Some kind of reference to a rate of interest 
or instalment of principal may be traced in one passage, but this 
is not certain. The interest was presumably paid in kind. The 
hymn disapproves of the practice. 

right of a father to adopt is clearly recognized, though a Vasishtha 
The land was probably owned by individuals and families, and 
the proprietorship was vested in the father, as head of the family. 
It is not certain whether the sons had any share in the land of the 
family during their father’s lifetime. If there were several sons, 
they could easily secure new allotments, if necessary, because as 
fresh land could be easily obtained, the problem was not, in any 
sense, an acute one. 

The individual ownership of land is, however, a debatable point. 
The RV supplies the following data. A piece of ploughland is in- 
dicated in the RV by the words urvara and Izshetra (I. 127. 6; IV. 
41. 6; V. 33. 4; VI. 25. 4; X. 30. 3; 142. 3, etc.). A passage (I. 110. 
5) shows that fields were carefully measured from which it follows 
that individual ownership in land for cultivation was recognized. 
The same conclusion follows from VIII. 91. 5 in which Apala refers 
to her father’s field urvara as a personal possession. This conclusion 
agrees well with the use of epithets like urvard-sa, urvard-jit, kshetrd- 
sd “winning fields,” and the mention of fields in the same context 
as children (IV. 41. 6). 

Nothing definite can b'e averred as to whether a grown-up son 
continued to stay with his father, his wife becoming a member of 
the father’s household, or whether he established a house of his 
own. Variations in local custom probably explain discrepant 
statements in this connection. Similarly, we do not know whether 
the son was granted a special plot of land after marriage, or whether 
he acquired it only after his father’s death. But we must not form 
an exaggerated estimate of the control of the father over a son, no 
longer a minor, because RV. I. "70. 10 suggests that the sons might 
divide their father’s property in his old age, and X. 85. 46 gives a 
hint that the aged father-in-law passed under the control of his 
son’s wife. The suggestion that separate holdings existed as early 
as the Rigvedic days is confirmed by the name of the deity kshe- 
trasya pati (Lord of the Field) to be understood as the god presid- 
ing over each field. 

1. This view has been put forward by Dr. H. C. Raychaudhuri, Advanced History 
of India (Macmillan & Co.), p. 29. 

2. For Danastutis, of. Ch. XVI. 

3. Advanced History of India, p. 29. 

4. Ved. Stud., II, 303. 

5. Translation of the Rigveda, III, pp. 253-6. 

6. CHI, I, p. 85. • 


361 



THE VEDIC AGE 


7. (1) In a geographical sense, the term means ‘‘settlement or colonies,” and a 
group of these settlements or colonies probably made up the jana (people) 
(cf. the next footnote^ (2) Politically the vikih were the subjects who consti- 
tuted the rashtra and who, foregathering in a formal assembly, could in an 
emergency unseat an incapable ruler or set the seal of approval on the corona- 
tion of a worthy one. (3) In a socio-religious sense, the visah represented the 
third class of Aryan society engaged in agriculture and commerce. (4) No 
wonder that in some passages, it should have the fourth or general sense of 
“people.” 

8. Sometimes Vis, jaiia and even gra,ma are used almost synonymously, But 
grama was normallj^ a smaller unit than the vis or jana. The relation between 
these two is not quite clear. Dr. H. C. Raychaudhuri observes as follows: “In 
some Vedic passages there is a clear contrast between the two, ’and Iranian 
analogies seem to suggest that the Vis is a sub-division of a jana, if tre latter 
may be taken as a parallel to the Iranian Zaniu. It is also to be noted that the 
Bharatas are referred to as a single jana, but when the word Vis is used in 
reference to them, we have the plural Visah possibly pointing to the existence 
of plurality of such units” {Advanced History, p. 29). 

9. Ved. Stud., II, 159. 

10. Translation of the Rigveda, IV, 44. 


362 



CHAPTER XVIII 

RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY 

As has already been indicated above (Ch. XII), the different parts 
of the Rigveda-Samhita were composed at different times, and it 
should be regarded, not as a single text by one author, but rather 
as a whole literature accumulating for centuries, a library, as it 
were, in the making for years. Nay, although the hymns of the 
Rigveda represent, in the main, the product of that period of intel- 
lectual activity when the Aryans found their way into India from 
their original home, it is not beyond the realm of probability that 
some of them were composed, or at least existed in the minds of 
the Aryan poets, even before they entered India. It is thus pos- 
sible that a few stanzas or even hymns are reminiscent of the 
meteorological and astronomical conditions that obtained thousands 
of years ago, somewhere outside India. No wonder then, that we 
should find in the Rigveda thoughts, beliefs, and practices that one 
would associate with the most primitive grades of society and with 
an unsophisticated age, side by side with an elaborate sapificial 
technique and advanced metaphysical speculation indicating the 
deepest apprehension of the godhead and its relation to man. The 
view, therefore, that the state of religious belief in the RV is a pro- 
duct of priestly effort and amounts to wholesale syncretism is as 
wrong as the one that it presents us with nothing else but a nai’ve 
outpouring of the primitive religious consciousness. 

I. MYTHOLOGY 

1. Origin 

Let us therefore draw up a clear picture of the religious con- 
ceptions and philosophical thoughts revealed in poetic garb in the 
RV, in the order of their evolution, as far as possible, before attempts 
ing to label, define or classify them. The RV poets were deeply 
affected by the apparently mysterious working of the awe-inspir- 
ing forces of nature. Their hymns reflect in places that primitive 
attitude ofc mind which looks upon all nature as a living presence, 
or an aggregate of animated entities. The luminaries who follow 
a fixed course across the sky are the devas (lit., the shining ones) 
or gods. Naturally the sense of the dependence of human welfare 
on the powers of nature, the unexplained mysteries of whose work- 
ing invests them with almost a “supernatural” or divine character, 
finds its expression in various forms of worship. 

At the same time, the attempt of the human mind, more poetic 
than scientific. Ip account for the various forces and phenomena of 

363 



THE VEDIC AGE 


nature with which man is confronted, leads to the rise of myths. 
When the imagination interprets a natural event as the action of 
a personified being resembling a human agent, a myth is born. The 
creative iancy of the Rigvedic poets goes on adding new touches 
to the picture, so that a natural phenomenon ultimately appears 
as a drama of human passions and not as an unintelligible and 
chaotic happening. The stage of anthropomorphism is thus reach- 
ed. Although Rigvedic mythology is not as primitive as some 
scholars once believed it to be, in no other literary monument of 
the world do we come across this primitive phase of the evolution 
of religious beliefs which reveals to us the very process of per- 
sonification by which natural phenomena developed into gods. The 
myths that have gfown up around a deity are in many cases trans- 
parent enough to keep the physical basis almost in full view all 
the time. The name of the god often hides but little. Neverthe- 
less, in cases where such a clear view of the original nature of a 
god is not possible, the etymological equations of comparative my- 
thology have not proved to be the reliable guides that they were 
once supposed to be. 

The closely allied mythology of the Iranians is illuminating 
at times, but mythological affinities are not as numerous as one 
would be led to expect from the striking linguistic affinity of the 
oldest form of the Avesta with the Rigvedic dialect in vocabulary, 
metre, syntax, diction, and general poetic spirit, the reason being 
the considerable overhauling of mythological conceptions in Iran 
by the religious reform of Zarathustra (ante, p. 226). The Rigveda 
is a monument of Indo-European mythology and, in this respect, is 
equalled in importance only by Greek mythology. The Rigvedic 
mythology thus forms a connecting link between the later Indian 
phase of religious beliefs and the Indo-Iranian as well as the earliest 
Indo-European phase. 

We now turn to the lines of mythological evolution within 
the Rigveda. In the hymns to the Dawn, the Sun and the Fire, 
among others, we are face to face with the corresponding physical 
phenomena exercising directly their beneficent powers. The pro- 
cess of personification next makes gradual progress, and the personi- 
fied phenomenon is deified, and thus emerge the concrete figures 
of Ushas, Surya, and Agni with whom the poet holds, as it were, 
direct communion. We are not so, fortunate in the case of the 
greatest figures of the Rigvedic pantheon, namely Varuina and 
Indra, regarding whose physical basis no certain conclusions have 
yet been arrived at. But in the case of a large number of Rigve- 
dic gods, we are able to tiace the original forces or events in Nature. 
Where the personification does not dominate the conception, the 
name of the deity is identical with that of the natural phenomenon, 
as in the case of Ushas and Surya. Where the n^mes differ, the 

364 



REUGION AND PHILOSOPHY 

personification has evidently advanced to the stage of anthropo- 
morphism and apotheosis. The number of gods is now on the 
increase, the increase being due either to some striking attribute 
abstracted from the concrete personality of a deity and founding 
the conception of a new deity which develops independently, as 
in the case of Savitri, or to an abstraction (like Visvakarman) 
taking up a concrete form later through association with some cos- 
mic function or natural power. 

2. The Nature and Classification of Gods 

Although the divine rank thus got swollen, there is no fixed 
order of seniority among the gods, as in a pantheon, in the strict 
sense of the term. For too many functions, powers, and offices 
are held in common by two or more deities. There is a sort of 
communism or democracy among them, though it is not thorough- 
going or consistent, and for this “the belief in individual gods alter- 
nately regarded as the highest” (i.e. Henotheism or Kathenothe- 
ism as Max Muller has named it) is responsible. The particular 
deity that the poet happens to be invoking monopolizes, for the 
time being, all the attributes. The god is addressed for the mo- 
ment as if he were the greatest and even the only god. Almost 
in the same breath, however, (in the very next stanza or hymn) 
this mighty god is described as dependent on others. 

In fact, the joint exercise of various powers, functions, and 
notable deeds by two or more or all the gods is almost a favourite 
theme in the Rigveda hymnology. In a thoroughly impartial spirit, 
the mutual co-operation, interdependence, and subordination of the 
various deities in pairs or larger groups is often described. There 
is hardly a god in the Rigveda so insignificant as not to receive 
homage from others not excluding the highest. “Henotheism,” in 
the strict sense of the term, is not to be thought of because the 
divine host of the Rigveda is not a pantheon (technically speaking) 
with an acknowledged overlord. Various explanations have been 
offered to account for this apparently inconsistent evaluation of 
divine ranks and dignities in the Rigveda. It has been urged, for 
example, that the inconsistency may be due to the partiality of a 
particular Rishi or Vedic :§dkhd to a particular god. But the force 
of this argument is considerably weakened by the large number 
or Rig vedic repetitions and (on the whole) their even distribution 
throughout the text. As Bloomfield observes, “no theory as to 
the character and origin of the Rigveda can pass by these facts. 
They mark the entire mantra-literature as in a sense epigonal and 
they forbid pungent theories about profound differences between 
the family books, their authors, and their geographical provenance.”'* 

It has also been contended, as MacdonelH*^ points out, that “in 
the frequent hymns addressed to the Visvedevas or All-gods, all 

365 



THE VEDIC AGE 


the deities, even the lesser ones, are praised in succession, and that 
as the great mass of the Vedic hymns was composed for the ritual 
of the Soma-offering, which included the worship of almost the 
entire pantheon, the technical priest could not but know the exact 
relative position of each god in that ritual.” This explanation 
rests on the unwarranted assumption that the ritualists of a later 
age, v/hen sacrificial technique was enormously developed, had to, 
and could, preserve very scrupulously the mythological values of 
Rigvedic poetry. 

Another approach to the problem of introducing order and 
system into this apparent chaos has been through classification. 
There is, first of all, the traditional classification hinted at in RV, 
I. 139. 11 and followed by Yaska, giving us a triple division of 
the Vedic gods corresponding to the three orders, namely, terres- 
trial (prithivisthdna) , aerial or intermediate ( antarikshasthdna or 
madhyamasthdna) and celestial (dyustkdna). Pi’ithivi, Agni, Soma, 
Brihaspati, and the rivers belong to the first order; Indra, Apam- 
napat, Rudra, Vayu-Vata, Parjanya, Apah, and Matarisvan to the 
second; and Dyaus, Varuna, Mitra, Surya, Savitri, Pushan, Vishnu, 
the Adityas, Ushas, and the Asvins to the third. This classification 
is founded on the natural basis which the deities represent, and is 
thus |;fle most practical and least open to objection (comparatively 
speaking). RV, X. 158. 1, which invokes Surya, Vata, and Agni 
for protection from heaven, air, and earth respectively is apparent- 
ly the lead followed by the predecessors of Yaska whose views are 
quoted in the Niruhta, and who hold that there are only three re- 
presentative deities, Surya in heaven, Vayu or Indra in air and 
Agni on earth, each of these having various appellations according 
to differences of function. 

The division is overlapping and not very clear-cut, as Tvashtri 
and Prithivi are assigned to all the three spheres, Agni and Ushas 
to the terrestrial as well as the aerial spheres, and Varuna, Yama 
and Savitri to the aerial as well as the celestial ones. Another and 
a less satisfactory division is the historical one, into Indo-European, 
Indo-Iranian, and Indian deities, based on the age of the mytho- 
logical creation. But the data as regards the dates and periods of 
many gods is insufficient and the available accounts of Germanic, 
Slavonic, and Celtic mythologies are defective. A division into 
prehistoric, transparent, translucent, opaque, and abstract or sym- 
bolic gods, based on the stages of personification which the deities 
represent, introduces the subjective element, owing to want of 
finality regarding etymologies and interpretations, and involves 
difficulties as reffards clear lines of demarcation. A classification 
according to relative greatness may derive support from RV, I. 27. 
13. But the difficulties of determining relative greatness are al- 
most insuperable fVTII. 30. I contradicting I. 27. IS) and only a few 

'166 



RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY 

tentative conclusions are possible. For example, Indra, the mighty 
warrior, and Varuna, the supreme moral ruler, stand out pre- 
eminent above the rest. Agni and Soma — the two ritual deities — 
should come next, but Indra, Agni, and Soma are the three most 
popular deities judging by the frequency of the hymns addressed 
to them. The statistical standard provided by the number of hymns 
dedicated to the gods and the frequency of the mention of their 
names is also not a sure guide. 

Before we sum up the general features of Rigvedic religion, 
we shall pass under review the class-characteristics of the gods of 
the Rigvedic pantheon, and the individual characteristics of the 
more important among them. The gods are usually stated to be 
thirty-three in number, divided into three groups corresponding 
to the three divisions of the Universe as mentioned above. The 
gods are described as born, though not all simultaneously, and yet 
they are immortal. This immortality is either taken for granted 
or is a gift from Agni and Savitri, or is the result of the drinking of 
the Soma. In appearance they are human, the parts of their bodies 
(such as their arms or tongue) being identified poetically with the 
phenomena of nature, such as rays or flames. They travel through 
the air in cars drawn generally by steeds and occasionally by other 
animals. The food of men, such as milk, grain, and flesh, becgmes 
the food of the gods when offered in the sacrifice, and is partaken 
of by them either on the grass kept ready for their reception at 
the place of the sacrifice or in the heaven where the god of fire 
carries it to them. The exhilarating juice of the Soma plant con- 
stituted the favourite drink of the gods. On the whole, the gods 
are benevolent, the only one with malevolent traits being Rudra. 
Splendour, strength, knowledge, possession, and truth are their 
common attributes. As a matter of fact, they have so few indi- 
vidual or distinctive traits, that a riddle hymn like VIII. 29 is possi- 
ble, wherein each stanza describes a deity by its characteristic 
marks, leaving its name to be guessed. The identification of one 
deity with another and the invocation of deities in twos, threes, 
or even in whole groups has helped to add to this vagueness of 
outline. The gods subdue the forces of evil and regulate the order 
of nature, which they themselves follow and enforce on mortals. 
They rev/ard the righteous and punish the sinful. 

3. The Celestial Gods 

We now turn to the individual deities and give a brief survey 
of their noteworthy characteristics in the order of the spheres to 
which they belong. The oldest among the gods of heaven, going 
back to the Indo-European period, and identical with the Greek 
Zeus, is Dyaus, a personification of the sky, a personification which, 
however, did not advance beyond the idea of paternity. He is call- 

367 



THE VEDIC AGE 


ed a ruddy bull bellowing downwards, a poetic description, probab- 
ly, of the colour of lightning, the fertilizing power of rain and the 
thunder of heaven. The image of the beautiful star-studded sky of 
the night is obviously called up when Dyaus is once compared with 
a black steed bedecked with pearls. Dyaus is generally paired with 
PrithivI, the earth, in the compound DyavaprithivI, the Universal 
Parents, who are celebrated in six hymns. 

The comparatively small number of hymns addressed to Va- 
runa hardly does justice to his importance in the RV. The per- 
sonification has so far advanced that his physical basis remains 
obscure. It has been suggested that the word varuna-s is probably 
the same as the Greek word Ouranos (sky) though phonetic difficul- 
ties make the identification uncertain. Varuna is the upholder of 
the physical and moral order symbolized in rita with which he is 
more intimately connected than any other god. The Varuna hymns 
which are predominantly ethical and devout in tone give us the 
most exalted poetry in the Rigveda.^ He is a king and a univer- 
sal monarch having a golden abode in heaven which is lofty and 
firm, and has a thousand columns and doors. He wears glisten- 
ing garments. He has spies whom none can deceive. He is pre- 
dominantly called the Asura, who rules by means of his mdyd which 
means* “occult power” (applicable in a good sense to gods, and in 
a bad sense to demons). By this power he sends forth dawns and 
makes the sun (who is also described as his eye) traverse the sky. 
He supports heaven, earth, and air. He, with Mitra, is most fre- 
quently invoked as a bestower of rain. He regulates the seasons. 
Neither god nor mortal may violate his ordinances. Varuna’s 
special connection with the waters is unmistakable. He is a regu- 
lator of the waters and causes the rivers to flow. If the ocean does 
not overflow, although the rivers constantly pour into it, it is due 
to the mdya of Varuna. He is above all the dhritavrata, the up- 
holder of ordinances such as the fixed paths of the luminaries across 
the sky. He stands out pre-eminently as the moral governor 
among all the deities. The fetters (pasas) with which he binds 
sinners are characteristic of him in this capacity. In every hymn 
to Varuna, there is a prayer for forgiveness of sin. 

There is uncertainty regarding the physical basis of the idea 
of Varuna. The view generally held is that it is the encompassing 
sky. This original conception, it is supposed, goes back at least 
to the Indo-Iranian period since Ahura Mazdah (the wise spirit) of 
the Avesta agrees with the Asura Varupa in character, though not 
in name. In the opinion of the present writer, Varuaja in the RV 
is pre-eminently the All-Pervader, the All-Encompasser, the All- 
Envelooer — an aspect fully agreeing with his name which appears 
to be derived from the root vfi (“to cover” or “encompass”). This 
All-Encompassing character is in keeping with his lordship over the 

368 



REUGION AND PHILOSOPHY 

twin spheres of light and darkness, of Night as well as Day, and with 
his position as supreme ruler (samraj) of the physical and moral 
world and as the custodian of fita. This rita, which like a wheel 
circumscribes the universe, regulates it, and keeps it in place, is 
VaruTUi’s pdsa and has for its physical basis the belt of the zodiac 
,from which no luminary (deva) may deviate and the penalty for 
transgression whereof is ensnarement by the shackles of non-rita 
or darkness and death. This is one side of the All-Encompassing 
character of Varuna. Another and a more important side (unfor- 
tunately missed by most scholars) is Varuna’s overlordship of the 
Waters (apah) which are far more intimately connected with him 
in the ^igveda than is generally supposed. The researches of 
Warren^ and of Tilak"^ establishing the cosmic character of these 
Waters have not received the attention they deserve. They may 
be summed up as follows; 

(1) The Waters are both terrestrial and celestial. The attri- 
butes of the latter in the Rigveda cannot all be satisfactorily account- 
ed for on the hypothesis that they are rain-waters. (2) The release 
of the Waters and the breaking forth of the dawn or the emer- 
gence of light are described as simultaneous events (I. 164. 51). 
(3) In fact, the movement of the Waters and the spreading forth 
of the rays of light originate from the same source and follow the 
same path (of rita) simultaneously. (4) These Waters are described 
as moved upwards by Indra when set free for movement, simul- 
taneously with the luminaries, after the killing of Vritra (II. 15. 
6; I. 80. 5; I. 32. 12, etc.). Their downward movement is, of course, 
described, as in VIII. 69. 11 where the seven rivers are said to flow 
into the jaws of Varuna as into a surging abyss or ocean. (5) The 
Universe is said to have consisted of nothing but undifferentiated 
Waters in the beginning (X. 82. 6; 129. 3). These Waters are coe- 
val with the universe (X. 30. 10). (6) The cosmic circulation of 

the celestial waters and the simultaneity of the free flow of the 
Waters and the rising of the Dawn are stated unambiguously in the 
Avesta (Vendidad XXI. 4-5; Yasht VI. 2, 3; etc.). (7) This theory 
of the cosmic circulation of the Waters is not peculiar only to Indo- 
Iranian mythology, but is found in Greek and Egyptian mythologies 
also. In other words, the celestial waters or watery vapours which 
pervaded tfie regions above, below, and around the earth were 
supposed by the Rigvedic poets to be the stuff out of which the 
universe was created,® and were, like the ether of modern scientists, 
the medium of the transmission of the light of the luminaries. 

A completely satisfactory explanation of the Rigvedic account 
of Varupa as the All-Pervader follows from his rulership of these 
Cosmic Waters. If Varupa in later mythology sank to the position 
of an Indian Neptune, it was among other causes also due to the 

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THE VEDIC AGE 


original sense of the Apah ^.Waters) as “Cosmic Waters” in the 
Rigveda being lost sight of. 

Mitra is